Author Topic: Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow - A Norbayne Campaign Log  (Read 1599 times)


  • Megas Domestikos
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Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow - A Norbayne Campaign Log
« on: March 28, 2020, 02:16:40 PM »
Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow: A Norbayne Campaign Log

Welcome once more, my friends, to a campaign log set in the world of Norbayne. With our previous main game, Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword now complete, our attention turns swiftly to the next chapter of the story. Over the course of who knows how many years, I will be posting 7 Stones here, a full two weeks before anywhere else, giving Exilian members exclusive access to the chapters as they are completed.

I hope you will enjoy our story as much as we do.

Table of Contents:
Prologue: Many Paths Converge on Stonebridge
Session 0.1: The Swordsman and the Idealist: In which we are introduced to the southern town of Stonebridge and witness the meeting of Michael and Ailbhe in the Pallid Mare inn…
Session 0.2: The Shadow, the Healer and the Woman From the North: In which we see the haunted Viltshaws north of Stonebridge and meet Shadow, Brynnhildr and Marwolaeth…
Session 0.3: The Minstrel, the Hunter and the Smith: In which Syntherion leads his companions, Hadrina and Ignus, to Stonebridge, to experience the Festivale…
Session 04.: The Watcher, the Potion-Seller and the Ice-Maiden: In which Shadow checks out the keep of Stonebridge, Marwolaeth receives some mail and Brynnhildr makes some friends in the Pallid Mare Inn...

Arc 1: Another New Beginning
Session 1.1: A Dark Night: In which the companions meet each other in the streets of Stonebridge, Marwolaeth suffers an unfortunate accident and the Chéserquine comes and goes…

In the next post, I will introduce our players and their new characters.

Also, while you're at it, go check out the game's Instagram page. There's heaps of artwork and photographs which will surely keep you entertained or something like that.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2020, 06:15:05 AM by Phoenixguard09 »
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Re: Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow - A Norbayne Campaign Log
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2020, 02:45:06 PM »
Dramatis Personae

I must beg your indulgence dear reader. A few of the following profiles are absent the stat-lines of the characters they detail. I will be providing these soon, but I have not gotten around to it yet. Rest assured, it will be attended to very soon.

My lovely partner in crime, Ladyhawk is the first of our players for this chronicle. Having been a founding member of the Three Coins group, Ladyhawk has now developed quite a significant mastery of the system, even running her own one-shot, Old Timers in early 2019. True to form, she is returning to the Mage class for this story, however this new character will be quite different from any of her previous ones, despite them all being primarily casters. Ladyhawk played the Danann Mage, Maebh Preachain-Eite in Three Coins, the Dunscarth Necromancer, Mathlynn Cild-Ailith in Great Maw and the Danann Warlock, Bedelia Ceanndorcha in Forgotten Glories.
Spoiler: Ladyhawk95 (click to show/hide)

A very old friend of mine, Dev’s been with us from the beginning as well. With Whispers in the Dark, Dev became the first person other than myself to attempt to run this anal retentive trip to hell of a rules system. He provides a strategically clever and innovative mind to the party. Has a tendency to prefer more martial characters, and for the most part his new character, much like his previous one, will lean into this, particularly early in the game. Dev played the Invarrian Duellist, Harold Oakenshield in Three Coins and the Midlander Shaman, Angus McFyfe in Great Maw. His character in this story is Angus McFyfe’s nephew.
Spoiler: Duke Dev (click to show/hide)

My sister, LD is also one of the founding members of Three Coins. Greatly matured from the early days of that first campaign, LD transitioned from a child to an adult as we played, and views the campaign as being a significant factor in her own growth as a person. Her new character has a neat little link to her old one, and has been described as being just like that character, minus the trauma and angst. LD played the Leathe Assassin, Breanna Blackrose in Three Coins and the Invarrian Ranger, Assar Eilert in Great Maw.
Spoiler: Lady Darkmoon (click to show/hide)

The last of the founding members of Three Coins, Sins is also a good friend of mine from many years ago. A major factor in building the system itself, Sins has been a constant help and friend over the years. Unlike the previous three, Sins’ new character is a vast departure from any he has played in the past, though it is fair to say that the mysterious layers which have been a hallmark of Sins’ play will probably emerge sooner rather than later. Sins played the Danann Ranger, Kel’Serrar Naya in Three Coins and the Midlander Binder, Whylith in Great Maw.
Spoiler: Sins of Dusk (click to show/hide)

A good friend of mine from our school days, Yohan and I fell out of touch for some time, but reconnected when Sins suggested he approach me about joining the Three Coins group. Yohan was the last player to join the original group, his character joining the party in Arc 5 of the campaign. A wise and protective presence in the group, Yohan provides a wealth of experience in table-top gaming and a keen mind for strategy. Yohan played the Feartarbh Guardian, Xander Wrothgar in Three Coins and the Bruin Artificer, Uday Ramirez in Great Maw.
Spoiler: Yohan Yorrvaskr (click to show/hide)

Initially a friend of Ladyhawk’s, LaPD has become a great friend of mine too over the past few years, even living together for a year in 2017. The significant other of SgtPugsley, LaPD runs the Libra’s Will campaign and, as such, is one of a very select few who have GM’d Norbayne, and one of only two to GM it for a group comprised entirely of players not part of the initial group. She also runs the Norbayne Campaign Instagram page, a link to which can be found below, where she regularly posts artwork and photographs from our sessions. LaPD has a tendency to play larger than life characters with pretty out-there personalities, but her aim for this character is significantly more subdued. LaPD’s first foray into Norbayne was with the Dunscarth Berserker, Aracaeda Cild-Ailith in the Great Maw episodic campaign, but she is probably best known for the Invarrian Alchemist, Kari Folgesvard in Forgotten Glories.
Spoiler: LaPimpDaddy (click to show/hide)

Sins’ significant other, Redshirt has been with us for quite some time. If Three Coins were to continue longer than it did, Redshirt probably would have been invited to play in that game, but alas, with it starting to wrap up when she was introduced to the group, I was hesitant to introduce a new character at that late stage. Redshirt’s first foray into Norbayne was with the Feartarbh Warrior, Aella in the Great Maw episodic campaign.
Spoiler: Redshirt No.482 (click to show/hide)

Our final player, Pugsley is one of mine and Ladyhawk’s oldest and greatest friends and LaPD’s significant other. Late to join our gaming group, Pugsley followed the Three Coins story loosely for several years and took the group photograph, which features everyone in this group save, sadly, for himself. While Pugsley has been playing for the shortest period of time amongst everyone in the group, his system mastery is impressive, as is the thought and care he puts into his characters. Pugsley’s first foray into Norbayne was with the Jeleni Ranger, Harper in Forgotten Glories. 
Spoiler: SgtPugsley (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: March 28, 2020, 03:07:59 PM by Phoenixguard09 »
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Re: Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow - A Norbayne Campaign Log
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2020, 02:54:18 PM »
Session 0.1: The Swordsman and the Idealist

”Michael…. Michael….

Go on Michael. I’m waiting.

Set me loose on your enemies Michael.

I hunger…”

Welcome, one and all, to the very first session, if you will, of Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow. Our two players for this session are Lady Darkmoon and Duke Dev.

Our story begins in the year 1731, in the Pallid Mare tavern, a relatively small establishment in the large southern town of Stonebridge. Situated on the swift-flowing Adhainn River, Stonebridge is quite prosperous, all tall buildings and ordered cobblestone streets, having sprung up around the Main Thoroughfare, the first bridge which was constructed over the river, centuries ago, back at the height of the Bovus Empire. The populace is rather varied, though, as a town in the Southlands of Norbayne, Midlanders, mainly Southrons and Lowlanders at that, are most common.

In the Pallid Mare however, on this afternoon, it is to a Leathe our attention is first drawn. Sitting alone in a booth, is a small, young Leathe girl, wearing finely-tooled boiled leather armour. Her fur is a mottled grey, black and brown merle and her long hair, dark brown, is done up in a loose ponytail. She looks around the establishment, a tankard on the table in front of her, still full. Her long tail twitches with nervous excitement as she sits there, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells to be experienced. The seat is too tall for her, so her legs swing freely as she sits.

“This is it Ailbhe. You’re a real adventurer now. Just like her.” – The Leathe, in an excited whisper to herself.

And surely, there are many experiences to be had. The Leathe has been in Stonebridge long enough to understand what the locals believe is going to happen in the next few nights. Stories of the Chéserquine have been circulating since she arrived in the town. Apparently, on one night, when the stars and the moons align in the heavens above, the great unseelie fey lord will ride out from the Viltshaws, that haunted forest to the north, with all his court, wreaking havoc across the countryside under the silvered light of the twin moons.

Or so the people have been saying anyway. Apparently anyone who did not have shelter for the night would be taken by the Hellequin’s host, never to be seen again. Ailbhe was reminded of a story she had heard, of events from more than eighty years ago, of a village assailed at night by a horde of spectral foes which would drag unfortunates off into the night, and of how a brave Leathe girl and her friends helped defend a tavern full of frightened villagers. She positively couldn’t wait for night to fall.

“Can I get you anything else?” – Mallida, the innkeeper.

Ailbhe’s attention is snapped to the short, portly Southron woman.

“Just the usual please.” – Ailbhe, with a winning smile and handing over a copper.

A short time later, a young, skinny Lowlander boy in an off-white tunic runs out to the Leathe’s booth, a small wooden plate in hand, and upon it, a single piping hot potato.

“For you.” – The serving-boy, placing the plate upon the table.

“Thank you.” – Ailbhe, grinning cheerfully at the boy as he deposits her food and runs back to the kitchen.

She then proceeds to burn the roof of her mouth on the hot vegetable.

* * *

A heavily-built man, armed and armoured, stops in Tamrend for a quick drink. He intends to press on towards Southbridge, the town he can see, maybe another hour’s walk away. He’s been walking for so long, it feels like it is all he can remember now, just the dull monotonous action of putting one foot in front of the other. His throat hurts, and he wipes the sweat from his brow and runs his hand through his short, russet brown hair. For the south, it is not a particularly hot day, but this man is not from the south, and he is used to significantly colder climes. He stops at the village well and sends the bucket, hanging on its chain, swinging down into the water below.

An old man, olive skinned and dark haired, though age has begun to shoot streaks of grey through the black hair, approaches the traveller.

“Friend, do you have a place to stay for the coming nights?” – The old man, offering a hand to the traveller.

“Ah no, why?” – The traveller, thickly accented voice cracking slightly from recent disuse. He returns the old man’s handshake. 

“You don’t look like you’re from around here. Have you heard of the Chéserquine?” – The old man. Indeed, the traveller’s russet red hair and beard and his pale, though now somewhat flushed, skin mark him out as a foreigner, likely a Highlander from the far north.

“Vaguely, but it is not an issue where I’m from.” – The traveller, somewhat dismissively.

“It certainly is an issue in these parts friend. Definitely recommend finding yourself a place to stay, inside, safe. Unfortunately, the inn here in Tamrend is completely full, but if you press on to Stonebridge, you should be able to find a place there.” – The old man, rather fervently.

“Thanks old timer. Appreciate it.” – The traveller, retrieving a partially filled bucket of water from the well and refilling his own waterskins.

They part ways, the traveller continuing south and on to Stonebridge. He looks out over the settlement ahead, marking the wide fields, home to both crops and livestock, and dotted with hamlets. Beyond the fields, lies the stone-walled town of Stonebridge itself. He can see the road, leading to a fortified and seemingly well-guarded gatehouse. To the left of the gate however, the northern curtain wall of the settlement is damaged, in some places not a wall, but merely piles of stone rubble, clearly the detritus of some siege the town had weathered in the not-too-distant past. Finally, as the sun dips into the horizon and shadows begin to creep across the land, the traveller arrives at the northern gates of Stonebridge.

“State your business.” – The sergeant of the gate-guard, a tall, yet relatively lightly-built Feartarbh, dark-furred and clad in chain, over which sits a dark blue tabard. Behind him, in the gateway, and above, upon the wall itself, stand a handful of other guards, similarly attired, mainly Midlanders by their appearance.

“I seek shelter for the night. I heard there was an inn here, in town.” – The traveller, coming to a halt, careful to make no false moves. Immediately he can perceive the wariness of these guards. They are on edge, and he does not wish to provoke them.

“I trust you intend to cause no trouble? You are certainly heavily armed.” – The sergeant, gruffly, gesturing to the swords the traveller carries, an arming sword at his side and the claymore slung over his shoulder, the greatsword bundled in rags and the traveller’s spare cloak.

“It would do no good for a mercenary to cause trouble in the lands in which he seeks work, and I would not be much of a mercenary without my weapons.” – The traveller, with a somewhat tired smile.

“True enough. I will trust your word. You may enter. Also, if you’re looking for work, the guard may have some for you. If you are in need, come to the guardhouse on the south-bank of the river, west of the keep. We are always on the lookout for a sturdy sword. May the Triad protect you.” – The sergeant, waving the traveller through the gate and into the town beyond.

The mood within the town is frantic as folk hurry to their homes, locking the doors behind them as they scurry inside. The sun is still up, though only barely, but the streets, which, in almost any other town of this size in the south, would be bustling with activity at this hour, are empty, almost silent. A little ways away, he can hear the faint sound of hammers beating steel on anvil, the tell-tale signs of Stonebridge’s industry. The traveller hurriedly makes his way through the streets, and as he does so, he comes to the realisation that he knows where he is going, or perhaps, that he knows where he is being taken.

He knows, for a fact, that he has never been in Stonebridge before, never even ventured anywhere near this far south before. Yet despite that, he navigates the streets as if he had lived in the town for years.

He comes upon the tavern in short order, a tall but narrow building, largely stone and wood in construction, as are most houses in the town. A sign hangs from above, depicting a rearing white horse and the name, emblazoned across the top, The Pallid Mare.

Upon entering, his eyes drift over the room, full of people. A fire burns fitfully in the corner, as do a handful of oil lanterns hung upon the walls, providing illumination to the many patrons within. The mood is relatively quiet, sombre even, and he notes that many of the folk within the tavern are likely families from outlying hamlets, seeking the safety of the larger settlement.

But it is one figure in the tavern which draws his eye, even as he stands in the doorway. A small figure, sitting alone in a booth, her fur a peculiar grey-brown mottled merle. A Leathe girl.

Go there. That’s the one. – A strange, haunting whisper it seems the traveller, and the traveller alone can hear…

“Can you close the door if you’re coming in? Don’t just stand there!” – Mallida, the short-tempered Southron innkeeper.

Without saying a word, the man enters the establishment, letting the door close behind him. He looks around the room briefly, his pale blue eyes taking in everything around him at a glance, then sits himself down in the booth, across the table from the Leathe girl, who continues to smash down her hot potato.

“Hey.” – The Leathe girl, trying desperately to appear cool and collected, but her furiously twitching tail and nose betray her excitement. She looks up at her new table-mate from her potato.

“Can I get you anything?” – Mallida, having approached the booth to serve the newcomer.

“Just an ale, thank you.” – The traveller, handing over a couple of coppers, and Mallida moves back behind the bar, pouring a generous measure of ale for the man, and bringing back a hunk of bread on a small wooden plate too.

“On the house.” – Mallida, leaving the bread and drink on the table with hardly a glance, and sweeping back to the bar.

“You should try the potato.” – Ailbhe, her mouth still somewhat full with her last bite.

“Maybe I will. You’re a long way from home little one.” – The traveller, taking a draught from his flagon of ale.

“Just a bit. What about yourself, where do you hail from?” – Ailbhe, trying to keep her voice deeper than its natural pitch.

“Crowpeak, to the north.” – The traveller, staring at the girl.

”I don’t understand. What is it about this one?” – The traveller’s thoughts, trying to address the whispers he keeps hearing. There is no response.

“Ah, yes. That’s a, ah, fair distance…” – Ailbhe, who clearly has no idea where Crowpeak is, trying to appear knowledgeable. Her statement sort of trails off into a question.

Spoiler: Crowpeak (click to show/hide)

“Yes, quite a way.” – The traveller, taking another draught of ale.

“Would you, by chance, happen to identify yourself as an adventurer of sorts?” – Ailbhe, in a sidling sort of way.

“Ah, a mercenary sure. Adventurer? Well, in a way, yes, I guess. Why? What do you see yourself as?” – The traveller, a little taken aback.

“A rogue, of the dashing variety.” – Ailbhe, a note of pride creeping into her voice.

There was a fair bit of laughter around the table at this exchange.
“Oh god, describing yourself as your class in game.” – Dev, laughing.
“To be fair, she totally would.” – LD, who is completely right. Ailbhe is the sort of character absolutely would do that.

The traveller just gives the Leathe a confused look, to which she shrugs, and finishes off her potato.

“I missed your name earlier I’m sorry.” – Ailbhe, holding out a small, furred hand.

“You didn’t. My name is Michael. Yours?” – The traveller, Michael McFyfe, grasping the girl’s hand and giving it a firm shake.

“Ailbhe. Ailbhe Blackrose.” – The Leathe girl, smiling and returning the handshake.

* * *

There’s a heavy thump as someone outside hits the wall next to the door of the tavern. Most of the chatter in the tavern comes to a stop, and most eyes turn to the source of the noise. Muffled voices can be heard from outside, raised and angry.

“You haven’t paid us yet! What are you going in there for when you haven’t paid us?” – A rough, raised voice from outside, which Ailbhe alone, with her keen Leathe hearing, is able to pick up.

“I haven’t got enough to pay you. I’m just going in there for a bite to eat. It’s all I can afford.” – A quieter, higher pitched voice, which even Ailbhe struggles to hear.

“Michael, can you hear that?” – Ailbhe, in a hoarse whisper to her companion.

“I heard the thump.” – Michael, leaning forward to hear the Leathe a little better.

“There’s someone outside, young man by the sound of it. Sounds like he’s getting a shake down. Should we do something about it?” – Ailbhe, her nose twitching with excitement. 

“Look, you’re coming with me. You can explain it to the boss yourself.” – The rough voice from before. There’s another thump and a muffled groan of pain.

“Let’s go see what we can do then.” – Michael, standing with his shield in hand and striding to the door.

“Yes!” – Ailbhe, excitedly but quietly to herself, drawing a dagger from her belt.

* * *

Michael opens the door to the Pallid Mare, and the two companions emerge into the late afternoon sun. Before them, walking down the street, each carrying various weapons and clad in studded leather armour, are three men, all relatively large, Midlanders by the look of them, and held limply between two of their number, a slender Jeleni with a sack over his head.

“Oi, lads, what are you doing?” – Michael, confidently striding forth into the street.

The leader of the band turns to look back at the Highlander, while the other two continue on their way, hauling their prisoner with them.

“Hold up boys.” – The leader, who starts to stalk back to where Michael stands. The Highlander can tell just by the way he moves that this is a trained swordsman, and while he carries a thick, iron-banded cudgel in his hand, there is a well-worn arming sword at his belt. He is not particularly tall, but heavily-built and the lower half of his face is covered in a short, patchy black beard.

“Where are you taking him?” – Michael, not backing down. In his left hand he carries a light, spiked roundshield, and his right hand rests upon the sword at his own belt.

“No concern of yours friend. I suggest you go back inside and enjoy your evening.” – The leader, now right up in Michael’s face. He is a big man, heavily built, and imposing, with several scars testament to a life of conflict, but Michael has seen tougher. Hell, Michael is tougher.

“How much does he owe you?” – Michael, standing firm.

“A friend of yours then, is he? Very well, his debt is 30 sulvers, but there is a late fee as well. Normally we would double the price, or, if he cannot pay, we will take it out of his flesh.” – The leader, menacingly.

“What a **** metaphor.” – Ailbhe, under her breath, too quietly for anyone else to hear.

“You have a lot of questions for someone with no affiliations to the business.” – The leader, sizing up Michael. It would seem that he hasn’t noticed Ailbhe’s presence.

“Call it a morbid curiosity.” – Michael, gruff.

“Morbid in that it will get you killed. Again, I suggest you clear off and put this out of mind.” – The leader, turning to leave.

“How about you let the man go?” – Michael, squaring his shoulders.

“Can’t do that. We have our orders.” – The leader, turning back to Michael, a murderous gleam in his eye.

“Orders? Who from?” – Michael, head cocked to one side as he absorbs this latest piece of information.

“Ha, get a load of this boys! Friend, if you need to ask that-“ – The leader, laughing to the rest of the band. His two lackeys have approached slowly since the beginning of the conversation, and they laugh too. The leader turns back to Michael, and is interrupted by the Highlander’s terse reply.

“We’re new to town, don’t have many contacts.” – Michael, his voice a deep growl.

“I don’t care if you’re new to town or not, last chance. Walk away.” – The leader, drawing his sword.

Michael punches him in the throat and the man stumbles back, struggling for breath. The Highlander draws his sword and readies himself behind his shield.

Chaos erupts in the alleyway. Ailbhe sprints across the cobblestones and launches herself at one of the bruisers holding the captive Jeleni. Knife in hand, she leaps into the air and just about wraps herself around the man’s neck and upper body. She holds the knife to his throat and stares at the other bruiser holding the captive.

“Let him go.” – Ailbhe, in as threatening a tone of voice as she can manage.

“Oi, what the ****?” – The bruiser, shoving the stunned captive to the ground and hefting his cudgel.

Sword in one hand, short cudgel in the other, the leader strikes at Michael, but it is ineffectual, the Highlander’s expert shield-play keeping him safe.

Ailbhe manages to maintain her seat as the bruiser she has grappled attempts to extricate himself from her grasp. She clings on desperately to his curly blond hair, as he furiously attempts to pry her off himself and throw her to the ground. The other man takes his cudgel in both hands and delivers a heavy strike to Ailbhe’s back, the hardwood impacting the Leathe with a loud crack.

“Ow! Look, tell me who you received your orders from, or I’ll slit his throat! Tell me!” – Ailbhe, grabbing her captive’s hair and wrenching it around to face his ally, her knife still held tightly to his throat.

“You wouldn’t. Look at you, you’re just a girl!” – The man who hit her, hefting his cudgel for another blow.

“I’m not just a girl, I’m an adventurer! Now, I’m asking you again, for the last time, who are you working for?” – Ailbhe, proudly exclaiming as she jabs her captive’s neck with the point of her knife, keeping the man’s body in between her and his ally as best she can.

“You wouldn’t do it, but if you did, you’d be in real trouble.” – The bruiser, trying to take another swing at Ailbhe without hitting his friend.

“Who from?” – Ailbhe, ducking under a wild swing of the cudgel.

“The Black Hand.” – The bruiser, trying to grab the nimble Leathe girl.

“Right. I feel like that might be enough to go on for now.” – Ailbhe, taking her intricately carved dagger and smashing the hilt into the side of her captive’s head as hard as she can.

“Ow! ****!” – The captive bruiser, trying to get his head out of the way of the Leathe’s wild bludgeoning strikes. She is still just about riding his shoulders though, clinging tightly, and she is able to land the blows with something approaching impunity, though they are largely ineffective.

“I’m sorry, I was trying to knock you out.” – Ailbhe, who genuinely does sound relatively remorseful.

While all this happening, only yards away, Michael and the leader of the band exchange a flurry of blows, neither man able to land a telling strike. The opening exchanges are swift, glittering blades clashing together in the late afternoon sunlight, with neither man appearing to hold the upper hand. Suddenly, Michael sees an opening, his sword flashes, and the leader of the band of ruffians falls to the ground, the top half of his head landing separately with a somewhat wet thud.

Several rounds pass with both Michael and the leader either missing with their attacks or parrying the ones which did hit, before Michael finally lands a 00 Critical, causing a sum total of 22 Damage to the head after Damage Reduction.

“Drop your weapons or I’ll kill all of you!” – Michael, roaring in rage, his eyes flashing with bloodlust as he turns towards the two bruisers still engaged with Ailbhe.

“I don’t want any trouble, just doing-“ – The bruiser, just about to hit AIlbhe once more, before dropping his cudgel to the cobblestone street with a clatter and letting his sentence trail off. He turns tail and begins fleeing rapidly away.

“No, please don’t hurt me. Please don’t.” – The other bruiser, the blond one Ailbhe still clings to. He too lets his weapon fall to the ground.

“Last chance. Who is the Black Hand?” – Ailbhe, trying her most menacing voice once more.

“I don’t know who it is. We work for them! Please, get off me. Just let me go.” – The bruiser, nearly reduced to tears as Michael slowly stalks towards him.

“Fine then, off you go.” – Ailbhe, disappointed, dropping to the ground. The man bolts into the streets, swiftly disappearing from view.

The two companions turn their attention to the young Jeleni man the bruisers had been attempting to abduct. He is young, small and slightly built, maybe twenty years old, with sleek, sandy-gold fur and small black horns, and wears a simple green woollen shirt over brown trousers. He sits on his haunches, his back against a wall on the side of the alley, wide-eyed and fearful. As Michael and Ailbhe approach, he stands, a little unsteadily, and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, smearing some blood through the sandy fur.

“Thank you so much. How can I repay you?” – The Jeleni, clearly still fearful.

“You can tell me something. Why do you owe them money?” – Ailbhe, clearly curious.

“Probably borrowed from a loanshark and couldn’t pay it back, not an uncommon story.” – Michael, dismissive, turning away from the Jeleni and moving to the corpse of the band’s leader, rifling through the deceased man’s pockets for any loose coinage or other items of note.

“Racketeering actually. Supposedly you pay for protection against damages, but they’re the ones causing the damage, so you can’t really win. You either pay them and they might not attack you or your store, or your clients, or you refuse and they definitely will, and take the money anyway.” – The Jeleni, to Ailbhe, with a somewhat hurt glance at Michael’s back.

“Who is this Black Hand they were talking about? Do you know who it might be?” – Ailbhe, fishing for further information.

“Oh, it isn’t a person, but an organisation. I think so anyway. I’m pretty sure it’s what they call themselves. If you’ll pardon the term, it’s like a thieves’ guild. Silly concept I know, but that’s what it is.” – The Jeleni, with a somewhat sad smile.

“Okay then, let’s get this man’s body in the river before anyone else from the guild turns up.” – Michael, having finished stripping the corpse of valuables.

“Thank you again for coming to my aid. I am so grateful. If ever you need anything, come to Brandin’s Coopery on the south-side of the river. Obviously my resources are limited, but I would do whatever I can to help you.” – The Jeleni, Brandin, shaking Ailbhe’s small hand. His slender hand is not strong, but for all that, his grip is still firm.

“If anyone asks, they attacked us.” – Michael, nodding to the cooper and then taking the corpse under the arms and beginning the arduous task of dragging it to the river.

* * *

The afternoon sun is just dipping beyond the horizon, leaving the streets of Stonebridge shrouded in shade, and two figures are dragging the slowly stiffening body of a man to the northern bank of the Adhainn River. Or rather, one figure, the larger of the two, is doing the majority of the dragging and just allowing the other to feel useful, while the smaller one is carrying the feet and, admittedly, every now and then forgetting her assigned role and just letting them fall to the ground.

“Hey Michael, what’s your star-sign? You’re not a Stallion are you?” – Ailbhe, her reedy voice suddenly breaking the relative silence.

“Uh, Dragain? – Michael, not entirely sure off the top of his head.

“Aw yes! Nice, yeah, me too. How good is that?” – Ailbhe, excitedly dropping the corpse’s legs and holding up one of her furry hands, palm extended towards the Highlander.

“Um, yeah, sure?” – Michael, stopping briefly, lowering the corpse to the ground and wiping his brow free of sweat with the back of his hand.

Ailbhe grabs Michael’s other hand with her left and forces him to give her a hi-five.

“You’ve never seen that before? I’m pretty sure it’s an adventurer thing. It’s okay though, I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.” – Ailbhe, cheerfully grabbing the corpse’s legs again and waiting for Michael to take up his load once more.

Together, they make their way to the Main Thoroughfare, avoiding the scarce guard patrols on the way, and pitch the corpse over the edge of the great bridge before making their way back to the Pallid Mare to clean up. 

And we left it there…

The Wrap-Up:
And there we have it, welcome to Stonebridge! What a great way to enter our new campaign. As the GM, I personally loved the dynamic between these two characters and the way their players saw fit to portray them.

Our next session will see us meet three new characters, as we leave these two in the Pallid Mare for now, and see just what the Viltshaws are like.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time,

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Re: Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow - A Norbayne Campaign Log
« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2020, 02:21:37 PM »
Session 0.2: The Shadow, the Healer and the Woman From the North


Looking for young and able bodied assistant to aid with duties pertaining to both the apothecary and matters of a private nature.

Assistant will be trained and paid as both apprentice and carer, with more details on the latter to be provided upon successful application and participation in a clinical trial.

No prior medical knowledge required, but will be taken into consideration.

Lodging can also be provided for an applicant if required.

Please send enquiries and applications to the Or’Saer Emporium, or alternatively, request an appointment with Marwolaeth Plendyn Or’Saer.

We look forward to hearing from you.

- Job Notice for the Or’Saer Emporium, an apothecary on the southern bank of the Adhainn River in Stonebridge.

Welcome to this, the second session of Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow. Our players for this session are SgtPugsley, Ladyhawk95 and LaPimpDaddy.

It is early morning in the autumn of the year 1731, and a single figure makes his way south to the town of Stonebridge along the Old Hill Road. He walks swiftly, clad in well-cut black and dark grey clothing and dark leathers. A chill breeze wafts past him, ruffling his long, tasselled cloak, and he pulls it up around his shoulders a little more, trying to retain as much warmth as he can in the grey, dawning light. He is a rather handsome young man, clean-shaven, with pale skin lightly tanned from his time on the road and his short blond hair, which would normally be well-maintained, messy and windswept. At his belt sit two blades, one short, the other longer, of somewhat unusual design, both slightly curved and absent a cross-guard of note.

Directly to the east, the foreboding peaks of the Dragain’s Tail, the southern-stretch of the Wardenfells loom in the distance, barring the passage of the sun’s direct light, leaving the land swathed in their shadow.

They have an oppressive presence.

The Wardenfells however, are a fair distance away, and much closer are the Viltshaws, a thickly forested hilly expanse which make up the foothills of the southern slopes of the Dragain’s Tail. The thick tangle of briars would be a nightmare to clear, and, as the traveller surmises, is probably why it has not happened to date. Other than the intermittent whistling of the wind, all is silent around him, no birds, no other creatures of the forest, and no sign of locals or other travellers for miles around.

He has never been this way in the past, or at least, not that he remembers, and is not entirely sure of what he can expect, though the silence unnerves him slightly.

He does know however, that he needs to get to Stonebridge, and thankfully, it is not too far now. He has been walking for many weeks, with only short periods of rest. He looks down at his well-worn boots as he puts one foot in front of the other, inspecting them. They are incredibly well-crafted, and despite the abuse he has put them through, they’ve held up spectacularly well.

The black-cloaked traveller keeps walking.

* * *

Some hours later, the traveller is still making his way south on the road. The sun has finally broken over the peaks of the Wardenfells, and the soft golden light provides a little more warmth. The traveller has taken off his cloak, wrapped it up and placed it in his pack now, no longer uncomfortable in the seasonally chill morning air. The light is a welcome change, however the silence is still oppressive.

To his left, he hears a noise, a little distant, but almost ear-piercingly loud in the silence. A dull sound, almost like an explosion, then muffled yelling and a strange, almost trumpeting sound, like an animal in distress. A little unsure, the traveller stops on the road, and tries to listen more closely. He can hear a sound like steel clashing together, and then more muffled shouting followed by that same panicked trumpet.

The traveller knows that this, the outskirts of the forest overlooking the road, would be a prime place for brigands. He dashes into the woodland at full speed. It doesn’t take long for him to find evidence of passage, someone or something moving at speed, with no care for concealing their way. Swiftly, he finds the source of the commotion.

Before him, a band of brigands have cornered a very tall, pale woman. Three of the brigands remain standing, two Midlanders by their appearance, one, dark-haired and sporting a long, thick black beard, armed with a mace and shield, the other with long red hair, clean-shaven with pock-marks all over his face, bearing a deep gash along his forearm, with a spear held threateningly in both hands. The third is a small, slight Woodsman, standing about fifteen yards beyond the other two, nocking an arrow to the string of his bow. A fourth man, also a Woodsman, is on the ground, crawling away to shelter, clearly grievously injured.

Of the woman, she is barely a hair off seven feet tall, well-built with long, platinum blond hair with loosely-tied braids all through it. She wears a blue-grey leather jerkin and dark grey trousers under a long coat, with long sleeves which turn into fingerless gloves. Her arms are outstretched, one hand empty, the other holding a bloodied war-axe, and behind her stands the source of the trumpeting. A creature the height and length of a moderately sized dog, but more heavily built, with shaggy brown fur, a long, prehensile trunk and small, ivory tusks. It is fearful, and clearly quite young, relying on the woman for protection.

Seeing the source of the commotion, the traveller makes to duck away, behind a tree, but the movement draws the eye of the archer, who, having nocked his arrow, raises it in the direction of the traveller.

“Ah, there’s another one over ‘ere boss. What do you want to do?” – The archer, eyes darting between the woman and the newcomer.

The black-bearded Midlander steps forward, mace and shield still in hand, but his arms held out in a non-threatening fashion.

“It doesn’t have to be like this. Hand over the money you’ve got, and your little pet, and you can be on your way.” – The leader of the bandits, attempting a winning smile, but all it does is reveal his crooked and rotting teeth. The smile never reaches his cold eyes.

“I cannot. I need it, I’m sorry.” – The woman, from the north by her accent.

“Not good enough. Shoot the-” – The leader of the bandits, interrupted while signalling to his archer.

“Hello there my dear friend! What is going on here?” – The traveller, emerging from the woods into the clearing, his hands raised.

“Hold! Who the **** are you?” – The bandit leader, irritably, signalling to his archer as he turns to face the newcomer.

“I’m Shadow, you haven’t heard of me?” – The traveller, smiling widely and slowly walking towards the leader, his hands still raised.

“No, I can’t say that I have.” – The bandit leader, holding his mace outstretched so that the head pushes into Shadow’s chest as he walks closer, stopping the man.

Behind him, still being threatened by the spear-armed bandit, the woman looks confused, but stays ready, keeping her companion safely behind her.

“Well Shadow, do you have any money on you?” – The bandit leader, poking the traveller’s chest with the steel head of his flanged mace.

“Not as much as you I would think. Nice boots you have there.” – Shadow, his gaze flicking down to the bandit’s boots. They are ragged leather, maybe a size too small for the man, probably stolen. There is a smudge of some white dust-like substance on the toe, possibly chalk.

“What do my boots have to do with anything?” – The bandit leader, confused.

“Nothing. What are you doing with this woman?” – Shadow, gesturing to the tall figure behind the bandit.

“None of your concern, ‘Shadow’. Get ‘em lads.” – The bandit leader, nodding to his men.

The woman growls an incantation and her eyes glow an icy-blue. Frost rimes around her, solidifying into a softly glowing shell of ice on her flesh. A long sliver of ice forms in her free hand and she hurls it at the archer, hitting the Woodsman in the leg, the razor-sharp ice ripping into the man’s unprotected flesh.

The leader of the bandits takes a wild swing at Shadow, but does not connect.

“You’re not very good at this are you?” – Shadow, mockingly.

Growling in frustration, the leader swings again, this time drawing nothing but a lazy dodge from the still unarmed Shadow.

“That wasn’t even an attempt.” – Shadow, feigning boredom.

The dodge however has put him in range of the wounded bandit on the ground, who lashes out with a hatchet, delivering a light wound to Shadow’s leg, the heavy blade carving a furrow across the man’s calf.

Shadow hisses in pain, drawing the shorter of his two blades, and thrusts at the leader, the slightly curved sword easily punching through the tough leathers the bandit wears and into the flesh beneath. Shadow withdraws the blade and slashes down, his steel biting through the flesh of the bandit leader’s upper arm as the man screams in pain.

The other bandit strikes at the woman with his spear, the long blade punching towards the woman’s torso, doing naught but scoring a deep gash in the layer of ice surrounding her. The archer too, growling at the pain she caused to his leg, looses his arrow at the woman, the projectile pinging off the ice covering her throat. There is a moment of silence before that same muffled explosion Shadow heard earlier emanates from the woman, as the ice shatters, sending a storm of shards ripping into the face and arms of the bandit spearman. He falls back a little, bloodied and screaming, clutching at his eyes. Through the storm of ice and sleet, the woman steps forward, her axe held in a two-handed grip, and the heavy blade strikes a fearsome blow, taking the bandit’s leg off at the hip.

“Get the woman! Get her!” – The bandit leader, swinging at Shadow with his mace, which the black-clad man lazily dodges.

The archer shoots again, the arrow punching into the woman’s upper arm, which draws a surprised cry of pain from her, and a panicked trumpet from her animal. Growling, Shadow strikes at the leader in retaliation, ducking under a wild mace-swing and behind the man, cleaving the heavy blade of his shortsword up the bandit’s thigh, leaving a grievous, bloody rent in the flesh. The leader falls to his knees, an arterial spray of crimson blood painting the forest floor as he loses consciousness.

“Pathetic.” – Shadow, kicking the dying man to the ground.

“There’s still more!” – The woman, her eyes locked on the wounded Woodsman bandit with his hatchet, who has staggered to his feet and is now stalking towards her. She hefts her axe in both hands, growling with the pain.

“Right, yes, of course.” – Shadow, mostly to himself, as he darts towards the archer, drawing his second, longer blade as he runs. His strike is slightly wide, and the archer uses his bow to push the blade entirely off-course, the heavy blade carving through the wood of the weapon in the process.

“Man, 69 to hit.” –Pugsley, disappointed.
“Noice” – LaPD.

The hatchet-armed bandit trades blows with the woman, landing a heavy blow on her, the blade biting into the flesh of her arm. He grins as she cries out in pain, his rotten teeth exposed by the expression. The tall woman’s own axe flashes too, once, then again, and his grin fades, as the heavy weapon sinks into the flesh of his own arm, a matching strike, though a more significant injury. He falls back a little, bleeding profusely, overborne by this fearful enemy.

Shadow lashes out at the archer with a swift kick, but the man ducks back and away. The black-clad traveller follows it up with a quick thrust into the side of the man’s neck with the shortsword, the steel blade cleaving easily through flesh and ending the man’s life. He turns back in time to see the last bandit cut down by the woman, her axe coming down on the top of the man’s head in a mighty strike from above.

Almost immediately, she turns and murmurs quietly to the small animal, comforting the clearly panicked creature with a combination of kind words and gentle patting. Shadow takes a few moments to inspect the bodies of the fallen, searching for any goods of worth amongst them, and any signs of life. He finds precious little of either.

The mid-morning light filters down through the dense canopy overhead as Shadow approaches the woman, on the surface at ease, yet ready to draw blades if this dangerous individual proves aggressive.

“Howdy.” – Shadow, friendly.

“Thank you, for stepping in as you did.” – The woman, standing and turning to face him.

“Shadow. Don’t worry, the knife’s in this hand. Wait, what knife?” – Shadow, offering his right hand to shake, as his left produces and then sheathes a dagger with a flourish.

“Brynnhildr. Thank you for helping us. I’m not sure what would have happened if you didn’t come across this.” – The woman, returning the hand-shake with a small smile at the man’s antics. Her smile fades somewhat as she sweeps her arm to indicate the fallen bandits.

“Oh, I didn’t do that much. They were pretty poor bastards. I mean bandits.” – Shadow, his gaze surveying the battlefield. He looks somewhat rueful, no doubt dwelling on the lack of valuables he was able to strip from the corpses.

It would seem Brynnhildr isn’t sure what to say to that, and she moves to pick up her pack from where she dropped it to the ground when the bandits accosted her. Doing so, she grimaces in pain, her arm badly wounded, an arrow still lodged firmly in the flesh.

“You’re a big woman. Tall, I mean. I have no doubt you could have handled yourself.” – Shadow, giving Brynn an appraising look.

“Uh, yes, I do tend to be a little taller than most people. I guess. And I do not know if I could have, not with Venn here at any rate. I worry for him.” – Brynnhildr, a little taken aback. She gestures to the creature with her uninjured arm with her last statement, and the shaggy brown animal gives a little toot of greeting, waving its trunk at Shadow, whose gaze turns to it now instead.

“That’s a weird looking dog.” – Shadow, brow furrowed a little.

“He’s a mammoth. Don’t worry, you look fine.” – Brynn, glaring at Shadow for a moment, before leaning down to mutter the last bit to a rather oblivious Venn.

“How did you get that here anyway?” – Shadow, still intrigued by the creature.

“We walked.” – Brynn, simply.

“So did I, but not with a mammoth.” – Shadow, blithely. Brynnhildr swiftly begins to realise that Shadow is a somewhat unique conversationalist.

“Where are you headed?” – Brynnhildr.

“Stonebridge. You know, you should really get that arrow out and the wound treated. A bandit’s arrows are not always clean.” – Shadow, checking all his gear, before indicating the arrow still protruding from Brynnhildr’s arm.

“You know, I’d almost forgotten about it.” – Brynn, absently.

“That’s either shock or the rush of battle. Either way, it won’t last. Best to remove it now before it becomes a problem. I can help you, if you like?” – Shadow, taking a step forward to assist.

“It’s okay, thank you. I will take care of it later. We should probably get moving. No knowing what lives in these woods which might be attracted by the scent of blood. Though, it will probably be quite awkward to continue like this.” – Brynn, grimacing as her strong fingers curl around the shaft of the arrow. The wood snaps in her grip, leaving the arrowhead embedded in her flesh with perhaps two inches of shaft protruding a little to help her remove it later.

Shadow shakes his head slightly, with a little admiration for the toughness of the woman before him.

“Suit yourself, the offer stands. You are headed for Stonebridge too? We shall travel together then. Can your horse keep up?” – Shadow, turning to make his way back to the road, calling back over his shoulder to Brynn as she and Venn start to traipse along behind him.

“We’ll manage. Do not slow on our account.” – Brynn, gritting her teeth. Shadow had been right. Adrenaline or shock, it hadn’t lasted.

* * *

The late afternoon sunlight streams through the canopy overhead as a small, stocky figure prowls through the undergrowth of the Viltshaws. A Woodsman woman, her shoulder-length black hair almost blue in the golden light, is on her hands and knees. Her pale face is pressed close to the ground, and her dark grey eyes inspect an orange moss-covered stone with great intensity. 

“Hmm, rebis perhaps? I think I will take some.” – The forager, taking a small silver knife and scraping it over the stone, collecting the moss in a small glass vial.

Finished, she stands, packing both the knife and the vial away and swinging a heavy leather pack over one shoulder. She brushes the dirt and dead leaves off her long, leather coat with both hands and then takes off one heavy leather gauntlet to run her fingers through her straight hair.

“Oh no, not again.” – The forager, quietly to herself.

Deep in the woods, under the thick canopy, time is easy to lose track of. It is starting to get dark, and her home is yet many hours away.

“****! Caitrin’s going to be so worried.” – The forager, hissing to herself.

This doesn’t happen often. The forager is a very punctual individual, ferociously independent. She doesn’t lose track of time often at all, and she gets physically lost even less. She’s a professional after all, an expert in her field.

And then, she hears them. A howl in the distance. She knows woodwolves inhabit the Viltshaws, packs of the creatures which emerge at nightfall from their dens in the crags of the foothills of the great Wardenfells beyond, and stalk their prey amidst the forested hills under the light of the moons.

Another howl, this one closer, and then another. She feels a thrill of fear down her spine. They are hunting. She is the prey. With a surge of panic, she realises she cannot recall the direction back to the main road, consumed as she was in her search for reagents. Looking around, she can see no sign of the correct path to take, and the dense woodland obscures any landmarks beyond the bounds of the immediate woodland.

“****!” – The forager, cursing and running off into the woods, away from the howls, as the darkness begins to close in around her.

* * *

The day passed relatively uneventfully after the strife of the morning, the two companions walking side by side in a largely companionable silence, their pace slowed somewhat by their wounds. Venn happily ambles beside Brynn, every now and then trotting on a short distance to inspect some new scent or sight. As darkness begins to fall however, Venn’s excursions grow shorter and the almost irrepressible mammoth-calf finally shows signs of fatigue, swaying slightly as he walks.

“We will not reach shelter before night falls completely. We will have to camp for one more night.” – Shadow, speaking for the first time in at least an hour.

“Indeed. Should we move off the road?” – Brynnhildr.

“Yes, definitely. We’ll cut into the woods a little way, just to hide the fire from any unfriendly eyes passing by on the road.” – Shadow, leading their little group off the road and into the eaves of the forest.

They find a suitable location and start to lay out a campsite of sorts, laying out bedrolls and crafting a fire. After a brief meal of watery stew which Shadow provides, Brynnhildr and Shadow stretch out on their respective bedrolls, each gnawing on a piece of hard biscuit which Brynn produced from her pack. Venn sleeps curled up beside her, the calf thoroughly exhausted after the day’s exertions.

“Oh, I almost forgot.” – Shadow, flicking a handful of coins in Brynn’s direction.

“I’m sorry?” – Brynn, a little confused.

“Your cut of the loot. I grabbed some hatchets as well, the only weapons any of them had which might be worth a damn. Do you want one?” – Shadow, proffering two of the small axes towards her.

She takes one, her fingers grasped around the unfamiliar grip. It is not particularly well-made, especially compared to her own, much larger axe, a commoner’s tool more than a real weapon. Still, she takes it with a grateful nod.

The peaceful quiet of the night is broken suddenly by howling from the north-east, a pack of woodwolves hunting for something. Both Brynn and Shadow leap up from their bedrolls, reaching for weapons. Venn awakes from sleep with a start, and lets out a short, panicked trumpet.

“Climb!” - A young woman’s voice, slightly accented, ringing out in the darkness.

A short Woodsman woman in her early twenties sprints towards the firelight, leaping over a fallen branch and into the ring of light. Brynnhildr immediately grabs the panicked Venn and puts him over one shoulder, and starts to climb the nearest tree. It is tough going, and swiftly, unable to get high enough, she comes to a decision, taking Venn and depositing the mammoth in one of the lowest branches, his little legs hanging down on either side before trying again to haul herself up on another branch. She looks back to the fire, where Shadow still stands, just watching her with a slightly incredulous look on his face.

“Shadow, get up in a tree!” – Brynnhildr, slightly panicked.

“Can’t believe it, basically a tree climbing a tree. And she carried that thing up there too. It’s practically the size of a horse.” – Shadow, to himself, shaking his head.

The black-clad man makes for another tree, and swiftly tries to climb it, but with a crack of wood, the branch he was using for a handhold snaps, and he falls back to the ground, flat on his back.

“I used to be good at that.” – Shadow, groaning.

Stopping at the fire, the newcomer draws a sickle from her belt and uses the curved blade to try and spread the coals towards her pursuers, hoping to illuminate them, and perhaps scare them away, or at least give them some pause. There they are, dark shapes in the tree-line, slinking in the shadows, only vague, powerful shapes and glowing eyes, the glint of ivory fangs. The newcomer reaches into a pouch at her waist and pulls out a small, spherical metallic object and holds it in her hand, the other still clenching the sharp sickle. Turning her head slightly, she sees out of the corner of her eye that neither of the others have managed to get into the trees yet.

“I said climb.” – The woman in a low hiss, her somewhat melodious accent still somehow being carried in the terse statement.

“****.” – Shadow, who closes his eyes and fades from view, now just an indistinct shadowy shape on the ground. There is a slight rustle, and the shape flits away and disappears behind a tree, into the darkness.

Redoubling her efforts, Brynn manages to claw her way up into the tree, then sidles along the branch a ways, to get closer to Venn. She helps the little mammoth adjust a little, ensuring the creature is safely straddling the bough she placed him upon.

”Safe here. Don’t move little one.” – Brynnhildr to Venn, through the mental link she shares with the mammoth-calf. He gives a small, scared trumpet in response and then wraps his trunk around the branch to help maintain his grip.

Watching the wolves, the newcomer stands her ground, standing on the edge of the fire. Her dark eyes remain diligently on the tree-line, but for now at least, it seems as if the wolves are wary of the flames.

“Are you both in the trees?” – The newcomer, calling out to the others, not once looking behind her to check on them. Her gaze remains firmly on the darkness beyond the light of the campsite.

“I am.” – Brynn, clutching tightly to her branch. She’s not particularly high off the ground, unable to get much higher, and unwilling to move any higher than Venn’s position.

“Me too.” – The voice of Shadow, from somewhere in the darkness. Despite Brynn’s best efforts, she cannot pick where he has gone.

“Word of caution, these aren’t regular wolves. If I tell you to close your eyes, close your eyes please.” – The newcomer, fiddling nervously with the metallic sphere in her hand.

“What do you know of them?” – The disembodied, slightly muffled voice of Shadow.

“Not the time. When I tell you to close your eyes, close your eyes please. It won’t be pleasant if you don’t.” – The newcomer, her gaze still firmly focused on the shapes lurking in the darkness.

The minutes drag out in silence, and the woodwolves continue to circle the campsite. The howling has ceased, replaced now by nothing more than quiet snarls and the faint sounds of several large creatures moving through the undergrowth. Finally, even those sounds fade, and the shapes melt back into the darkness, retreating away from flames, and the alert woman who stand over them.

* * *

Finally, the newcomer places the spherical object back in her pouch and the sickle in a loop on her belt and turns to look at the others. Brynnhildr comes down from the tree, helping the exhausted Venn down with a cracking of branches, gentle murmurs in a foreign language and some quiet, grateful trumpeting.

Brynn sees a short Woodsman woman, but well-built and muscular, with messy, black hair and pale skin. She wears dark clothing under a thick leather coat of an unusual, diagonal cut and a black cloak, replete with a mantle of what looks like raven feathers over her shoulders. She has many small pouches hanging from a handful of belts across her body, and at her back she carries a heavy leather pack.

As Brynn approaches her, the newcomer’s expression flickers for a moment, before returning to a stoic and calm poker-face.

Blimey, she’s tall. – Marwolaeth’s thoughts as Brynn approaches, and she can come to grips with the scale of this grey-clad woman.

“You mustn’t be familiar with these lands if you’re out here setting up camp for the night. You can’t camp this close to the Viltshaws.” – The newcomer, crossing her arms over her chest, her brow furrowed.

“First time in the area.” – Brynnhildr, nodding.

“Well, I suppose I shouldn’t say too much, as I’m out here too. I did lose track of time myself. I should know better.” – The newcomer, looking up to the sky, taking note of the position of the stars and the twin moons.

“Thank you for the warning. It would have been difficult to get through them with the little one.” – Brynnhildr, turning slightly to indicate the shape of Venn, who has curled up on Brynn’s vacated bedroll and immediately fallen back asleep. His little trunk twitches as their eyes fall on him, and he smacks himself in the head with it, startling awake.

“Is that… that’s no dog…” – The newcomer, a little taken-aback by the creature. She had noticed it, briefly, earlier, but did not pay too much attention before.

“It’s a cow!” – The still disembodied voice of Shadow.

“No, he is neither a dog, nor a cow.” – Brynnhildr, with a slightly irritated glance towards the darkened tree she believes Shadow to be taking refuge within.

“What is he then?” – The newcomer, her wide, dark eyes still studying the little creature intently.

“A mammoth. I brought him with me from the north. I am Brynnhildr.” – Brynnhildr, quietly, extending a hand to the woman to shake.

“Ah yes, my apologies, Marwolaeth.” – The newcomer, pulling her hand from a heavy, black glove and returning the greeting.

“That voice you can hear is Shadow.” – Brynn, sweeping a hand out to indicate the still-hidden man somewhere in the darkness.

There is a faint rustle in the top of a tree and a faint thud of impact, then another quiet rustle amidst the leaf litter on the ground. Then, suddenly, the shape of a blonde, black-clad man materialises before them, at the base of the tree, kneeling on one knee, one fist pressed to the ground, the other arm swept out, causing his black, tasselled cloak to sweep out in a flourish. He looks up, and the piercing eyes under his hood meet those of Marwolaeth, as he slowly stands.

“Is he always this dramatic?” – Marwolaeth, to Brynnhildr, her face expressionless and her tone unimpressed.

“We did only meet this morning, but yes. Yes he is.” – Brynn, smiling slightly, revealing canines just slightly too sharp in the process.

“I don’t even know her. Who is she? I’m Shadow. What’s with the big knife? Don’t worry, the knife’s in this hand. Wait, what knife?” – Shadow, striding confidently towards the newcomer. He extends his right hand in greeting, then suddenly flicks a knife from hand to hand, a knife which did not appear to be there a mere second ago, before sheathing it in a quick flourish.

“Okay… I’m Marwolaeth, I co-own the Or’Saer Emporium, an apothecary in Stonebridge.” – Marwolaeth, shaking the proffered hand, her face expressionless, but her tone somewhat confused.

“Stonebridge? That is our destination too. You are more than welcome to travel with us in the morning if you choose.” – Brynnhildr, quietly.

“Eh, I was just going to walk on. I think we might be less than six hours out. Unless I miss my guess, I could be back by midnight.” – Marwaolaeth, looking up at the sky once more.

“Not with the wolves out there, surely? You wouldn’t walk on alone in the dark, even if you were on the road, no?” – Brynnhildr, surprised.

“They’re scary sure, but if you know how to fend them off, they’re not too bad. That said, there’s safety in numbers, and with all of us walking together, they’d be unlikely to make the attempt if we were wary.” – Marwolaeth shrugging.

“I do not think the little one could do it. He’s had a long day already, and must rest. I can ward the campsite against intruders though, and make it safer to stay here.” – Brynnhildr, fishing around in her pack and withdrawing a long length of slender grey rope. 

“Okay then, it would probably be safer to do as much.” – Marwolaeth, shrugging and placing her pack on the ground at the base of a tree.

As Shadow tends to the fire and builds it once more, Brynnhildr takes the rope and lays it out in a circle around their campsite. She then sits in the centre, next to the fire, and starts to chant softly under her breath. The rope around the campsite briefly glows soft with a pale white light, then fades and returns to its normal appearance.

“There, it is done. Try not to touch it if you can. Hopefully it will ensnare anything which seeks to cross it. Should make it a little safer.” – Brynnhildr, dusting her hands off and standing. She walks to her bedroll and gently shifts Venn enough to be able to lie down herself.

 “I won’t take any chances.” – Marwolaeth, swiftly climbing into a tree within the bounds of Brynnhildr’s circle. She huddles up in her cloak in a high branch. She gives a loud whistle, and moments later, a small black, feathered shape alights on the branch next to her.

“Good night, little reaper.” – Shadow calls up to the shape of Marwolaeth. There is no response, but, unbeknownst to him, in the darkness beyond his vision, his statement elicits a slight, genuine smile.

* * *

The night passes uneventfully and dawn breaks over the forest. The little clearing campsite was undisturbed during the night, and when Marwolaeth awakens, somewhat stiff and sore from the night up in the branches of the tree, she looks down to see that both Brynn and Shadow are stirring below. The black-clad man stokes the fire back to life, beating away the dawn chill. All through the woods lies a thick, heavy fog, giving the forest an ethereal feel.

The Woodsman swiftly descends, and shares some mushrooms she foraged from the forest the day previous with the others, cooking both the mushrooms and some preserved meat over the fire to make a simple, but hearty, breakfast. In the pale light, she can see the wounds both Brynnhildr and Shadow sustained recently, particularly the heavy bloodstains soaked into the arm of Brynn’s coat, and she makes a mental note of them.

After breakfast, as Brynn and Shadow begin to pack up the camp to move on for the day, Marwolaeth carefully approaches the tall woman.

“Would you like me to have a look at that arm there? I noticed it briefly last night, but didn’t think anything of it. This morning though, I can see it better, and I’m worried it might get infected.” – Marwolaeth, holding out her hand expectantly.

“Ah, no, thank you, that’s okay. I’ll see to it myself. Perhaps if you had some bandages or salve or something, I’d be grateful.” – Brynnhildr, shaking her head. Huddled on the ground beside her, Venn glares up at Marwolaeth from around Brynn’s leg.

“I’m afraid I don’t have too much on me here, but there will be plenty of supplies back at the Emporium.” – Marwolaeth, a little confused, but unwilling to push the matter.

“The Emporium?” – Brynn, curious.

“Yes, our apothecary in town. I’m sure I mentioned it last night.” – Marwolaeth, a very slight edge to her voice.

“It had been a long day, and a trying night. Forgive me if I did not pick up on it, I was likely distracted.” – Brynn, frowning, taking a little offence at the herbalist’s tone.

“I heard it!” – Shadow, interjecting from the other side of the campsite, standing there with his belongings packed and an unusual black, tasselled cloak around his shoulders.

“It’s quite alright. I’m not usually the one talking with people, I do the cleaning and the stitching and then send them on their way. Caitrin does most of the talking. I meant no offence.” – Marwolaeth, her tone a little softer, but her expression remains unchanged.

“I am sorry, it seems I’m holding everyone up. Come on Venn, up you get, time to move.” – Brynn, gathering the last of her things and slinging her pack over her shoulder with a wince of pain which she does her best to hide.

“Good, if that’s everything, let’s go.” – Shadow, taking the lead out of the woods.

* * *

The morning passes uneventfully, and when Shadow’s pace in the lead lessens a little, the hastily bandaged cut on his leg troubling him, Marwolaeth overtakes him, driven by a desire to get home as swiftly as possible.  She drives them onwards steadily, not deigning to make small-talk with either of her erstwhile companions, and, five hours after setting out from their woodland campsite, the three companions and a young mammoth enter the small, walled settlement of Tamrend.

Even now, at this relatively early hour, still a couple of hours before noon, the village is busy, and the modest tavern looks to be full to capacity. There is a low hum of music emanating from within, and the sounds of conversation of clattering of food and drink being served.

An older, dark-haired, olive-skinned man approaches the companions, his eyes on Brynnhildr. Neither Shadow, nor Marwolaeth particularly stand out in a crowd, but Brynn towers almost a full twelve inches above most in the village, and her long ash-blonde hair catches the bright late-morning light, as do her pale, well-cut clothes. The dog-sized, shaggy brown mammoth calf beside her also draws some stares. Venn’s trunk sneaks into Brynn’s hand as he huddles against her side, seeking comfort in the cacophonous village.

“Another newcomer! What a week this is proving to be. Welcome to our humble village.” – The old man, friendly, offering a hand to Brynnhildr to shake. The tall woman does so, with a wary expression on her face.

“Other newcomers? From the north too?” – Shadow, interjecting himself into the conversation.

“Indeed, yes, there’s been a few in recent days. Midlanders, a Leathe, even a Feartarbh, all heading to Stonebridge. We had a caravan from the south move through as well a few days ago. They’ll be back after the Chéserquine apparently.” – The old man, nodding his head.

“The what, I’m sorry?” – Shadow, a curious expression on his face.

“The Chéserquine. You haven’t heard of it? You’d best be well acquainted with it lad, especially in these parts. Any night now, the fey court will ride through these lands and steal away any in their path. You make sure you’re safe inside when night falls. I hope you weren’t planning on staying here for the night either, the tavern’s all full-” – The old man, warming to his theme.

“That’s okay, they won’t be needing it, they’ll be staying in my apothecary in the town. Now we must be off, there really is no time for idle chatter.” – Marwolaeth, interrupting the old man.

“Mistress Or’Saer, I didn’t see you there. Please pass on my best wishes to your sister and let her know that Maisie has recovered fully. How lucky you are to have such a friend in town, and a place to stay as well. Take care friends, and don’t go out after dark!” – The old man, smiling at Marwolaeth and turning back to Brynn and Shadow.

Driven by Marwolaeth’s uncompromising pace, the companions venture out from Tamrend, through the open stretches of farmland, vineyards and orchards which lie on the northern edges of the town. There is a fair bit of activity out in the fields, and soon enough, the bustling community of Stonebridge is open before them. They note the damage to the northern curtain wall, evidence of some kind of strife in the not-too-distant past.

“What happened there?” – Shadow, calling to Marwolaeth and indicating the damaged wall.

“Border skirmish, maybe three years back. They managed to bring part of the wall down, and caused some damage throughout the northern districts, but they were thrown back swiftly. That said, many of the northern districts are abandoned now, and cordoned off from the rest of the town.” – Marwolaeth, briefly as they approach the gates.

Upon approaching the well-fortified and guarded northern gate, the sergeant of the guard, a tall and slender dark-furred Feartarbh nods at Marwolaeth, and with that the three companions, Venn in tow, pass through the port without challenge.

“Good to see you Miss Or’Saer, we were worried when you did not return last night. I’ll let Adelle know you’re back when I see her next.” – The sergeant of the guard. Marwolaethe responds with a friendly wave, but otherwise continues to stride at a gruelling pace. 

Accustomed as he is to cities, Shadow takes in the sights as he follows Marwolaeth through the cobblestone streets. The northern parts of town definitely seem to be less affluent, no doubt, the buildings squat and largely wooden, though a few are supported with stone pillars, reinforcing the corners, the rooves usually thatched. The sounds of industry can be heard coming from the riverbank, the clang of metal on anvil, roaring fire, the rush of water powering waterwheels and the raised voices of people plying their wares. Columns of smoke rise into the late-morning sky, evidence of the forgefires which provide so much of Stonebridge’s material wealth.

Crossing the Adhainn River is done via one of three bridges which span the swiftly flowing water. The central bridge, the Main Thoroughfare as Marwolaeth calls it, is a prodigious thing, perhaps a hundred yards wide, carved from hard, grey stone. Crossing over, the difference between the structures and dwellings on either side of the river is stark. Where the buildings on the northern bank are squat and wooden, many of those on the southern bank are grey stone two or even three storeys high. The rooves too are different, not thatched, but rather shingled with slate-grey tiles. The streets, still cobblestone, in some places are lined with small trees which grow in tiny gardens cut out of the surrounding stone. Despite the greenery, Shadow and Brynnhildr’s first impressions of the town are of its colourlessness.

Situated on a slight rise on the southern edge of the town, a tall keep, itself constructed of smooth grey stone, rises above Stonebridge, watching over it. It would certainly be quite a defensible position, Shadow thinks to himself, and he knows that this keep must be the seat of Marquess Rodelle. 

The companions continue onwards towards the keep, and then turn down an alley and come to a fairly large, two-storey, eccentric-looking dwelling, a composite structure of grey stone and dark-stained wood. Unusually for Stonebridge, this place has an extensive garden out the front, hemmed in by stone and wooden barricades, the greenery tracing up and around the house itself, even hanging out windows on the second floor and off the edge of the roof.

A wooden sign hanging over the black-painted wooden door gently sways in the breeze.

The Or’Saer Emporium

It is a dark, messy place, seemingly overgrown and a little foreboding. There is no sign of light or life from the windows, and Marwolaeth takes a small ring of steel keys from her belt and fiddles with the lock for a moment. The door swings open, and Marwolaeth enters the building, propping the front door open. Shadow and Brynn follow, the tall woman having to duck slightly to fit through the low doorway, but once inside she is surprised by how spacious it is, and how tall the ceilings are.

“Caitrin, I’m home! We have guests!” – Marwolaeth, calling up the stairs as she moves to the counter at the side of the room and strikes two oil lanterns into life.

One lantern she leaves upon the counter-top to provide a little more illumination to the storefront, while the other she takes with her into a back-room of sorts. While she’s gone, Shadow, Brynn and Venn take the opportunity to wander around her store and marvel at the collection of goods stocked there. Brynnhildr notices several concoctions which purport to be arcane or otherwise aethyric in nature, and she feels a little doubt as such. These things are unlikely to be properly magical, however the effects would possibly seem as such to the uninitiated, and she knows there are many out there possessed of more coin than knowledge of such things. 

Marwolaeth places the lantern upon a central table in the backroom, and takes off her cloak and coat, hanging them from hooks upon the wall. She also removes her heavy leather gloves and places them on the table, then obtains another pair of almost identical gloves from a drawer and puts them on. She takes a few moments to collect various supplies, salves, fresh bandages, a needle and thread and leaves them on the table beside the lantern.

“Brynnhildr, when you’re ready, there’s equipment here to see to your wounds.” – Marwolaeth, calling out, her tone businesslike.

The apothecary removes her gloves once more, puts them back in the drawer, and waits in the doorway as Brynn approaches, trailed by Venn.

“The salve has a powerful numbing agent, so be sparing with it. A little goes a long way. The bandages are just normal, but they don’t deal well with moisture, so do your best to make sure they don’t get wet. I’ll be outside if you need help.” – Marwolaeth, slightly awkwardly. Brynn nods, and the apothecary leaves, and closes the door behind her.

Alone, save for Venn, Brynnhildr removes her coat and starts to properly inspect the damage to her arm…

* * *

Closing the door behind her, Marwolaeth comes face to face with Shadow. Her eyes flick briefly downwards, and she takes in the wound to his leg.

“Hmm, maybe you should get that looked at too. You have no problem with someone seeing to it?” – Marwolaeth, a little preoccupied, already looking in her stocks behind the counter for further medicaments.

“I’d appreciate it.” – Shadow, nodding his thanks. He takes a seat against the wall, removing a splinted greave and rolling the right leg of his trousers up, revealing the dried blood and hastily bandaged gash in his lower leg.

Marwolaeth removes the bandages and, with a damp cloth, dipped in some kind of anti-septic solution, expertly wipes away the blood and cleans the wound. She is swift and efficient, and swiftly has the flesh cleaned and the wound sewn up with thin, silver thread. She applies a light coating of a grey-green salve and wraps a clean bandage around the injury. Shadow, for his part, barely even flinches as the sharp needle passes through the flesh.

As she works, she can’t help but notice the three small ‘X’ marks, raised scars, the memory of deep cuts carved down the back of Shadow’s calf, deliberately made. The apothecary takes them in, taking a mental note, but does not mention them.

“Might be best to keep the trouser leg rolled up for a few hours, just to let it settle. Maybe stay off it for a little too, just let it heal a bit.” – Marwolaeth, tying off the bandage.

“So I’ll need someone to carry me.” – Shadow, nodding sagely.

“No, no, no, you can still walk, just not with all that sass like you normally do.” – Marwolaeth, putting her hands up.

“Not my normal strut then. I see.” – Shadow, with just the hint of a sardonic smile and his usual humour.

“I do not understand you.” – Marwolaeth, packing up her equipment and shaking her head.

“Seriously though, thank you for your help. You were very gentle.” – Shadow, his eyes glinting a little with amusement, but his tone and expression otherwise sincere.

“No, that’s, well, quite alright. I’ll be -” – Marwolaeth, her pale skin flushing slightly. She is interrupted by a slight ringing, almost like a small bell from the doorway of the apothecary.

A tall Southron with wavy black hair, his skin heavily tanned, enters the building, ducking slightly to get through the door. While tall, he is light and lean, athletically built, and not unattractive with dark eyes, a neat beard and a slightly hooked nose. His clothing is well-tailored, dark browns and greys, light cottons and leathers under a thick, dark grey woollen cloak.

“You must be Marwolaeth Or’Saer, is that right?” – The newcomer, his eyes landing immediately upon the small woman behind the counter.

“That’s right, how can we help you?” – Marwolaeth, her entire demeanour immediately business-like.

“It is a delicate matter, I’m afraid. To put it bluntly, I require some acid, just a few ounces worth, strong enough to devour flesh.” – The newcomer, walking to the counter, his voice lowered, almost conspiratorially.

Shadow, seated behind the counter and obscured somewhat by both the counter and the uncertain firelight, lets out a snort of amusement.

“Five sulvers.” – Marwolaeth, gently placing a glass vial upon the counter. 

The newcomer looks like he is about to object when Brynnhildr emerges from the backroom.

“Marwolaeth, ah, selling more acid of the finest quality I see. Quite the effect you know, I used some just the other night and, well, it did the job very nicely. Little to no residue, only the faintest scent, well and truly worth the cost.” – Brynnhildr, who continues into quite the impressive spiel on the qualities of Marwolaeth’s acid, all the while her brilliant eyes remain locked on the prospective buyer, ensuring he is well aware that she could recall his face with vivid detail.

The effect is a little unnerving, as is the way in which Marwolaeth’s gaze remains fixed as well, her expression expectant and unwavering.

The newcomer thinks better of it, and hands over the silver coins.

“Very well, five sulvers then, on the recommendation of…?” – The newcomer, gesturing to Brynn.

“Brynnhildr, from the north.” – Brynn, a little cold.

“Well then, I thank you for your assistance. Also, I would ensure that word of this does not spread.” – The newcomer, holding up a sixth sulver before placing it on the counter.

“Apothecary’s confidentiality clause. No word will get out.” – Marwolaeth, taking the sixth coin and pocketing it.

The man takes the vial and nods to the two women, secreting the acid under his cloak. He is about to turn to leave when his gaze falls on the figure of Shadow, still sitting behind the counter, appearing for all the world to be bored with the whole affair.

“My word… So it is… Olivar Flint, is that you?” – The Southron man, looking closer at the black-clad figure of Shadow.

There is a faint flicker of darkness around Shadow as he stands. For a brief second he is wreathed in shadow, but then it fades, and there he stands, still partially obscured by the darkness behind the counter. He looks vaguely disappointed for the barest instant.

“No, I am Shadow. I’m afraid you must be mistaken. Who are you then?” – Shadow, seemingly confused.

“I am Alred, but you are… Shadow? What’s this about? You, are Olivar Flint, I’m sure of it.” – The Southron, Alred. He too sounds a little confused.

“Who is Olivar Flint?” – Shadow, mockingly.

“You. I’ve seen your face before.” – Alred.

“Where?” – Shadow, genuinely curious.

“I am not sure if I should share it in the present company. Do you honestly not remember?” – Alred, quietly.

By way of response, Shadow crosses swiftly to the other side of the counter, a hand taking the collar of Alred’s shirt in a vice-like grip, and he pulls the taller man out the front door of the Emporium, Alred making no effort to fight against Shadow’s grasp. Marwolaeth and Brynnhildr watch from the Emporium as the two men disappear from sight into the stone streets.

* * *

Okay guys, if you’re playing in 7 Stones, and you’re not Pugsley, please don’t read the following spoiler. For all our other readers, please do, it’s cool stuff.

Once the other man leaves, Shadow spends a few moments standing in the alleyway, dark thoughts racing through his mind. Eventually he shakes his head, draws his tasselled cloak around his shoulders and begins to head back to the Or’Saer Emporium.

* * *

“So how long have you lived in Stonebridge?” – Brynn, attempting to engage with the smaller woman in a little idle chatter.

“Ah, three years, eight months and twelve days.” – Marwolaeth, busying herself behind the counter, secreting the silver she collected from the mysterious customer and pulling out display items.

“And is it a nice place to live?” – Brynn, quietly.

“How long is a piece of string? I suppose it is nice enough. Sufferable I guess. What about you? How long have you been travelling?” – Marwolaeth. It is painfully apparent that Marwolaeth is not particularly used to making small-talk, nor is she very adept at forming relationships with strangers. The last question she asks as she awkwardly turns back and looks over her shoulder at Brynn, with a slightly confused look upon her face.

“I’ve been on the road for about six months now.” – Brynnhildr, quietly bemused by the apothecary’s strange behaviour.

“I’d like to travel. One day, anyway.” – Marwolaeth, turning away and continuing to set up the store.

Thus dismissed, Brynnhildr finds Venn and sits down with him. She pulls out a large pinecone from a pouch at her belt and rolls it along the floor for Venn to fetch, the little mammoth happily trotting after it and picking it up daintily with his trunk before setting it down beside her.

Only a short time later, Shadow returns to the Emporium, the black-clad figure striding inside, his face clouded, and for just about the first time since meeting him, his good humour seems to have evaporated. He sets himself down heavily in a chair and takes a long draught from the flask he keeps at his belt. To Marwolaeth’s trained and experienced eye, there is no sign upon him of any untoward dealings in the alleyway, no new injuries or bloodstains.

“Can I trust you both down here for a little while? I have something I must attend to upstairs.” – Marwolaeth, calling to the other two.

“Of course, we’ll mind the store.” – Brynn, calling from her spot on the floor in the corner. For his part, Shadow just nods at the apothecary.

“Excellent, thank you.” – Marwolaeth, and the next thing Brynn and Shadow hear is the heavily booted footfalls of the apothecary tramping up the staircase.

* * *

Panting slightly, Marwolaeth sees the first door on the left is closed over but unlatched and she knocks on it gently. She hears a chesty cough from within.

“Marwolaeth, is that you?” – A gentle voice, a little weak and sharing the same lilting accent as Marwolaeth herself.

“Yes, Caitrin. Are you alright?” – Marwolaeth, a note of concern in her voice as she speaks to her sister.

“Not feeling all that well today I’m afraid.” – Caitrin, coughing as she finishes the sentence.

“Oh, no. Maybe you should come downstairs? I might be able to give you something for the cough?” – Marwolaeth, gently swinging the door open, revealing a simple, yet homely room.

Lying within a bed against the right wall is a small, diminutive figure. She is practically identical to Marwolaeth, save her black hair is a little longer. Well, she would be if it weren’t for her slightly sunken and dull eyes, her somewhat frail frame and her pale complexion, even more so than Marwolaeth herself. At the moment she lies in bed, a soft, forest-green blanket all the way up to her chin, obscuring all but her face.

“That should be okay. I already made myself a little something earlier in the morning. It isn’t the cough today so much as this terrible tightness in my chest. I just need a little rest and I’ll be strong as an oak.” – Caitrin, sitting up a little in the bed with a weak laugh.

Marwolaeth rushes to the bedside and holds the palm of her hand to her sister’s forehead. It is a little warm, and a little clammy, but not too bad. She has been far worse.

“I’m okay sister, I’m okay. It is good to see your face again. I was worried last night until you sent Aderyn with the message.” – Caitrin, taking her sister’s hand in a gentle grip and squeezing it.

“That’s good. I’ll get you some water and food. There’s some people downstairs, patients I guess, but not really. It’s okay, you don’t need to worry about them. Don’t forget to ring the bell if you do need anything.” – Marwolaeth, squeezing her sister’s hand in return before turning and retrieving the silver pitcher from Caitrin’s bedside table.

“Of course, of course. Food sounds lovely, thank you, and I can’t wait to meet your friends.” – Caitrin, with a small laugh.

Marwolaeth gives her a bit of a lop-sided smile herself as she leaves the room.

“I’m leaving the door open a crack. Come on down whenever you feel ready.” – Marwolaeth, over her shoulder.

* * *

With Marwolaeth upstairs, Shadow takes the opportunity to peruse the Emporium’s front stock. For the most part it is herbal remedies and cures, perfumes and other scents and purported hedge magic. He is largely unimpressed with most of it, seeing most of it as the purview of those with too much coin and too little sense.

“I wonder if there’s anything more interesting around here…” – Shadow, to himself, but loud enough for Brynn to hear.

“Is there anything in particular you might be looking for?” – Brynnhildr, tossing the pinecone in the air for Venn to catch as it falls.

“No, not really.” – Shadow, settling down in a seat with a bored sigh. He looks down at his leg, the wounded limb tightly bound with a fresh bandage. He grunts with a little approval at the way the salve has numbed the pain of the gash, and has to admit that the apothecary’s work is tidy, and that the remedies and salves the Emporium provides are of high quality after all.

A few minutes later, Marwolaeth has re-appeared from her sojourn upstairs, filling a silver pitcher from the clear water within a stone basin in the far corner of the store-front. She disappears upstairs once more and returns shortly after.

“Marwolaeth, a question. Do you have anything a little more dangerous on display?” – Shadow, raising a hand to get the woman’s attention.

“Likely not for you. Did you have anything specific in mind?” – Marwolaeth, dismissive.

“Well, let’s say poisons? You would be in that business, would you not?” – Shadow, a peculiar glint in his eye.

“Not too many, no, and not for you. Next question.” – Marwolaeth, not liking the way this conversation is headed.

“Just a little one. A little bit of poison. Like, one dose of poison.”- Shadow, the beginnings of a slight grin casting over his features.

“More Caitrin’s area of expertise than mine. I’m not particularly well-versed in poisons, but there may be something for you out the back.” – Marwolaeth, holding her hands up in mock surrender.

“Maybe some kind of sleeping draught. Or paralysis.” – Shadow, warming to his theme.

“Ah, sleeping draught. Or paralysis? What one would you like? Or perhaps you want sleeping and paralysis?” – Marwolaeth, as Shadow simply shrugs by way of response.

“That’s a thing?” – Shadow, genuinely curious.

“Perhaps. Two separate concoctions mixed together. One could adjust the dosages and work from there. It could be done.” – Marwolaeth, herself starting to warm to the idea.

Not well-versed in poisons indeed.

“The way you’re talking suggests that you have both of those concoctions on hand already.” – Shadow, questioning. His face appears thoughtful, but his eyes betray a sense of mirth.

“Well, we do have a sedative we use on rowdy patients, or those so badly injured they need some kind of assistance to rest and escape the pain. I do not think it is as effective as you’re hoping though. It simply induces drowsiness, it does not instantly knock the patient out.” – Marwolaeth, shaking her head ruefully.

“And the paralysis?” – Shadow, leaning forward in his seat.

“I think I remember Caitrin making something a little time ago. It may still be in the back. Let me check.” – Marwolaeth, immediately turning on her heel and striding into the backroom.

* * *

The apothecary searches amongst the stock for a short while before finding a small vial filled with a viscous pale green liquid. Attached to the glass is a short note written on slightly yellowed parchment, the text written in black ink in Caitrin’s spidery hand.

Draught of Living Death : )
Causes intense paralysis,
Effective for short period,
Possible side effects,
Don’t use on self.

“Gods, I don’t know how smart he is. This could go very poorly.” – Marwolaeth, thinking it over for a moment. With a shrug, she takes the vial and walks back out to the storefront.

* * *

“Okay, here it is. The Draught of Living Death, as crafted by my sister.” – Marwolaeth, placing the small vial down upon the front counter with a flourish.

“I have a feeling I will be making this up to you one day.” – Shadow, having left his seat to stand by the counter. He reaches a gloved hand out for the slender glass vial.

“Uh-uh, I don’t think so. You’ll be paying me if you want it. Twelve sulvers.” – Marwolaeth, her hand snatching the vial back of the counter like lightning. She reaches her other hand out, palm upwards.

“I don’t have that much on me I’m afraid. Put it aside for me, I’ll collect it when I have a little more coin.” – Shadow, a little crestfallen.

“How much would you be willing to part with for it?” – Marwolaeth, countering.

“Twelve coppers?” – Shadow, with a slight laugh. The apothecary’s face is stony and unmoving, and she seems entirely impervious to the man’s attempt at levity.

“No, that’s not nearly enough. I will hold onto it for you then.” – Marwolaeth, turning back to the backroom to secret it away in there.

“Okay, but just think if there’s a time in the future, and we’re in trouble and I could save your life if I had it, but you didn’t give it to me…” – Shadow, grinning at the retreating form of the apothecary. She doesn’t deign to respond.

“You mentioned staying here to the man in Tamrend?” – Brynnhildr, calling to Marwolaeth.

“Ah yes, we only have one spare room, but I spend most of my nights down here anyway, so one of you can take my room. I will show you upstairs if you like?” – Marwolaeth, returning from the backroom and gesturing to the staircase.

* * *

As the three enter the upstairs hallway, they hear persistent coughing coming from the first room on the left, the one with the door slightly ajar. Marwolaeth immediately enters the room.

“Caitrin, please let me look you over. That cough isn’t natural.” – Marwolaeth, concerned.

“I’m okay, see?” – Caitrin, pouring herself a drink from the silver pitcher with a weak smile.

“Oh, look, she’s drinking water, the magical elixir of life!” – Marwolaeth, sarcastically, throwing up her hands in disbelief.

Caitrin simply flips her the bird and takes a long draught with a smile, finishing the water and laughing a little at her sister.

“If you weren’t just like me I’d smack you in your silly little mouth.” – Marwolaeth, with mock anger.

“No, Venn, no!” – Brynn, desperately trying, and failing, to prevent the little mammoth from sidling into the room, intrigued by the raised voices.

“Oh, is that a… That’s a weird looking dog.” – Caitrin, looking at Venn with a smile.

“It’s a mammoth. So sorry to intrude, I couldn’t stop him.” – Brynn, from the doorway, watching on helplessly as the little mammoth trots on over to the bedside before sitting there expectantly waiting for the unwell woman to begin petting him. He lets out a small trumpet of contentment as she does so.

“No trouble at all. You must be Marwolaeth’s friends. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I am Caitrin.” – Caitrin, sitting up in bed, resting her back against the headboard. She smiles at them both, and when she does so, the weakness of her form and the dullness of her eyes recede, and her resemblance to Marwolaeth is stark.

“I am Brynn, and likewise.” – Brynnhildr, inclining her head respectfully.

“Shadow.” – The black-clad man, crossing the room swiftly and offering his right hand to the woman. She takes it, and they shake. He notes the frailty of her grip, and how pale her skin is, almost translucent.

“Neither of you are sick are you?” – Marwolaeth, staring intently at Shadow’s hand, measuring the strength of his grip in case he hurts Caitrin inadvertently. Both Brynnhildr and Shadow shake their heads, and she relaxes. Slightly.

“What brings you both to Stonebridge? Are you in the area for long?” – Caitrin, smiling pleasantly.

“Unsure at this stage. Trying to find my way I guess.” – Brynnhildr, quietly from the doorway to the room, still a little uncomfortable at the idea of brazenly walking straight in like Shadow. Caitrin nods by way of response.

“Here on business. Hard to say how long I will be here.” – Shadow, thoughtful.

“What do you do for work?” – Caitrin, curious.

“Cobbler.” – Shadow, coughing awkwardly into the back of his hand.

The way Pugsley actually said it on the night, it honestly sounded like he might have said, “Killer for hire.” Now I’m not sure if it was intentional, but even on recording it was hard to tell.

“Cobbler you say? Is there much work in town at the moment for you?” – Caitrin, honestly curious as to why a cobbler would travel for work.

“There’s always someone looking for new shoes.” – Shadow, non-committal.

“Well then, next time I am in need, I will get in touch with you.” – Caitrin, smiling at the man.

“This one here needs new boots actually.” – Shadow, gesturing to Marwolaeth. She looks down at her footwear, taking in the battered heavy leather, stained and weathered after years of constant use.

“They’re fine, they’re… No, actually, I think you might be right.” – Marwolaeth, resignedly.

“Give me two days and I’ll draw up an order for you. Eight to ten sulvers I reckon should cover it. You’ll never find better.” – Shadow, studying the apothecary’s boots intently, his keen eyes taking in every detail.

She shrugs and nods in agreement.

“I’d offer to make some for you too, but I don’t know if I can go up to size twenty-six.” – Shadow, a glint of amusement in his eyes.

“Her feet would be pretty big yeah? She’s like seven foot tall.” – Pugsley, laughing.
“Definitely, but she’s a bit self-conscious about her appearance.” – Ladyhawk.
“More concerning is that Shadow has standardised shoe-sizes, but no matter.”

“Come on Venn.” – Brynnhildr, with a sharp intake of breath. She looks hurt by the comment, and turns and leaves, the little shaggy mammoth following her out into the hallway with a longing look at Caitrin, who waves at the little creature as he leaves.

“I’m sorry, I’ll make it up to you. New boots, free of charge!” – Shadow, immediately regretful of the jibe.

“I don’t need new boots, especially not from you.” – Brynnhildr, hissing at the man as she leaves.

“Brynnhildr, wait!” – Marwolaeth, pushing past Shadow and catching Brynnhildr in the hallway. The apothecary opens the door opposite Caitrin’s and reveals a small room.

It is small, significantly smaller than Caitrin’s, with a small bed in the centre of the room with a locked chest at the foot of it. Other than those two pieces of furniture, the room is unadorned. The room is clean, and the bed is made and in good condition, if very small, but it still projects a sad picture. Unlike Caitrin’s room, there is no window.

“Never mind. Shadow, this is your room.” – Marwolaeth, looking Brynnhildr up and down, swiftly deciding that the northern woman’s large frame would not be comfortable on Marwolaeth’s small bed.

“Oh this is great.” – Shadow. He doesn’t even seem to be lying as he takes in the room.

“Is that sarcasm?” – Marwolaeth, eyes narrowing.

“No, not at all. I won’t have to bunk it with anyone, will I?” – Shadow, putting his pack down on the floor and draping his cloak over it.

“No, just, keep the sheets clean, yes?” – Marwolaeth, rolling her eyes.

She leads Brynn to the other door in the hallway, and opens it, revealing a much larger room, with a significantly larger bed. The room is similarly tidy, but a little better furnished, with a wide dresser against the left wall and a single window, high on the opposite wall, letting in a little light.

“Here, the guest-room. I hope it will be to your liking.” – Marwolaeth, a little awkwardly.

“It is great, thank you for your hospitality. With that said, if you wish to use the room, Venn and I could seek shelter elsewhere, or camp outside or something?” – Brynnhildr, genuine in her appreciation.

“No, you can’t do that. The Chéserquine is coming, either tonight or tomorrow. You must be inside when it does.” – Marwolaeth, insistent.

“The man in Tamrend mentioned it yes. What is it?” – Brynnhildr, curious.

“There’s an astrological event which stirs up the local unseelie sidhe court. It has something to do with the stars I’ve heard, but it happens like clockwork every few years. It is very dangerous if you’re outside, but if you’re inside, you’re usually safe enough.” – Marwolaeth, dismissively.

While the two women talk, Venn trots over to the side of the bed and puts one forelimb upon the edge before looking back at the two of them with a questioning look in his eye. As they watch, he slowly clambers up onto the bed, and before long is prancing happily back and forth along the length of the bed, trumpeting with joy.

* * *

Shadow, having divested his equipment in Marwolaeth’s room, changes his shirt to a non-descript one of wine-colour and moves to leave the Emporium, looking for all the world like a middle-class merchant out for a stroll. About to leave, he is startled by a loud voice, alike to Marwolaeth’s as he approaches the threshold.

“Where are you going?” – The disembodied voice, startling Shadow as he prepares to leave. He looks around, but can see no sign of Marwolaeth, and after a moment, realises he can still hear her speaking with Brynnhildr upstairs.

“Where are you going?” – The voice again, insistent. This time, Shadow sees the offender, a pitch-black raven sitting in a nest of sorts constructed upon a windowsill, tucked away in overgrown greenery.

“Where are you going?” – The raven asks again, it’s beady black eyes inspecting the man as it cocks its head to one side.

“I thought you had a mammoth…” – Shadow, under his breath with a small grin. He leaves the Emporium, striding out into the midday sun.

“Where are you going?” – The raven calls after him once more.

And that’s where we left it.

The Wrap-Up:
Well then, I apologise for how long it took to complete this write-up but there was just so much detail to cover. First, I must thank the three players for their efforts in this one, LaPD in particular, who had to wait a fair while to introduce her character into the game.

That said, it was fantastic to see the players slowly find their characters as the session went on, and by the end it certainly felt as if everyone had a fair grasp of what they wanted to be and do.

So good in fact, that they requested a second prologue session the following weekend, to which I obliged. I originally intended to post both sessions as one write-up, but the sheer size of this particular piece was something I did not anticipate, and as such, I discarded that plan pretty quickly.

At any rate, stay tuned. We’ll have the third prologue piece posted soon hopefully, introducing our final three players and characters.

Cheers, and thank you for reading.

« Last Edit: September 11, 2020, 05:36:07 PM by Phoenixguard09 »
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Re: Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow - A Norbayne Campaign Log
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2020, 03:21:00 AM »
Session 0.3: The Minstrel, the Hunter and the Smith

We're setting sail tonight,
Who knows where we're going,
But I will take the chance,
Just take my hand and fly,
Eyes on the skies ahead now,
And never look down,
I'm feeling brave here,
I see what is coming,
And it's been worth the ride, 
Free of our fears,
The end is in sight,
Who's going to stop me now?

- The Song of the Aviator, by Syntherion Voiculescu.

Welcome to the third session of Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow, and what was intended to be the final prologue session we played. Our players for this session are Sins of Dusk, Yohan Yorrvaskr and Redshirt No.482.

“Well that’s not ominous.” – Redshirt.
“No, there’s no foreshadowing in the campaign title at all. Why would there be?” – Sins.

A small group of travellers, three strong, make their way along the coastal roadway in the midday sun. Along their way, they pass farmers working their fields or driving livestock to market, merchants on wagons travelling to their next destination and various other travellers on their business. A stiff breeze blows in from the west, bringing with it the scent of salt and the raucous cries of seabirds. They make for Stonebridge, a large town which traverses the Adhainn River.

The foremost of their number is a tall Jeleni, very young, clean-limbed and dressed in a garish collection of motley, all bright colours and excited glances all around. He carries a wooden instrument slung over his back, a board with a multitude of strings attached to it, and a bright red silk sash around his waist, tied like a belt. The minstrel remembers telling his companions of this place, this Stonebridge. He just cannot wait to get there, and to see the festival he had heard tales of.

“Basically, I don’t blend in anywhere, save maybe within a paint factory explosion.” – Sins.

A few paces behind, walks a stout, heavy-set Dwergar, a mountain dwarf. He is old, his skin weathered and beaten from many hard years of life, his hair and beard salt-and-pepper grey, bound in bronze clasps. He is clearly proud of his well-maintained, long, sweeping beard. He wears an off-white padded gambeson under the straps of a heavy leather pack on his back, the pack nearly as large as he is, but he bears the burden easily. Lashed to the pack is a curious steel tube, with an intricate mechanism of some kind attached to one end of it. It looks like a weapon of some kind, but perhaps unfinished. At his side, thrust through a thick belt is a large smithing hammer, clearly modified. His eyes are a cloudy white, with hardly any definition between pupil, iris and sclera. He grumbles under his breath as he walks, following the almost prancing figure of the young Jeleni before him. 

A few paces further behind, keen, cat-like eyes always wary, strides a black-haired female Danann, somewhat short by the standards of her kind and deceptively powerful for her build. She wears a long brown leather riding coat over dark green linen clothing. At her side, under the coat, she carries a hatchet, and at her back a powerful longbow and a quiver of arrows.

“Generic elf ranger, with a coat.” – Redshirt.
“Legolas in the Old West?” – Sins.

“So what’s the thing about to hit this town again Synth?” – The Danann, calling ahead to the young Jeleni.

“It’s called the Chéserquine. When the stars align in the heavens above-“ – The Jeleni, Syntherion, begins to explain before he is interrupted by the oldest member of their company.

“Without all the flowery language lad.” – The dwarf, grumbling.

“There’s a fey court in the haunted woods north of the town that goes a-raiding one night every few years.” – Syntherion, shrugging. The taciturn attitude of his companions troubles him extraordinarily little as a matter of course.

* * *

By mid-afternoon, the three companions finally come within sight of the sprawling town of Stonebridge. The first thing which draws their eyes is the towering stone keep overlooking the settlement, an imposing fortification which commands the countryside.

“Ah yes, the keep.” – The dwarf, Ignus, squinting up at the powerful structure as they approach. He appears almost lost in thought as he does so.

“Has it changed much?” – Syntherion, his cheerful voice piercing the old dwarf’s musings.

“A little, I think. It was many years ago, I do not quite remember.” – Ignus, quietly.

It has been many years, nearly forty years in fact, since Ignus last laid eyes upon the town of Stonebridge. When last he was here, it was as part of a merchant caravan from Baillett, hawking their wares to people far afield from his home.

Wide fields filled with crops ready to be harvested surround the road for miles around, thick golden heads of wheat which sway gently in the brisk coastal breeze. Beyond them, in scattered pockets, the darker shapes of grape-vine frames and the orderly rows of orchards can be seen too, the full breadth of Stonebridge’s agriculture on display. Beyond the town, to the north-east, the ominous peaks of the Dragain’s Tail rise into the afternoon sky. Despite the golden light of the sun overhead, the mountains appear almost swathed in shadow and even at this great distance, one can’t help but be intimidated.

Unless of course, that one, happens to be a young Jeleni bard named Syntherion Voiculescu. Incorrigible, and perhaps just a little painful to simply be around, Syntherion cares little for things others may find fearful. No indeed, as the companions approach ever closer to the southern gates of Stonebridge, it is all Syntherion can do to not begin skipping with joy.

* * *

The gateway is well-guarded, a small group of guardsmen, most of Midlander stock, though one, a sandy-furred Leathe, tall for his kind, does stand out. They are not numerous, but they do seem on edge, clad in chain hauberks under black and red quartered surcoats. Some have crossbows, most have spears and tall kite-shields, also quartered in black and red. The Leathe carries a selfbow instead, a quiver of grey-fletched arrows at his waist, and he sits upon the crenellations of the wall, looking down upon the sparse traffic entering through the open gateway below.

Upon the field directly outside the southern gate, a small battalion of the guard appears to be mustering. A handful of red and black canvas tents are pitched upon the grass, and more than a score of guards are working to pitch more as the afternoon wears on.

The three companions enter the town without challenge, and, two of them at least, take their first steps upon the cobblestone streets of Stonebridge. Ignus however, has been here before, and as his two younger companions draw a little closer to him, he takes in the sturdy architecture. Here, so close to the great keep which dominates the surrounding countryside, the inhabitants are wealthier, and the structures reveal as much.

“But the closer we get to the forest of f***-you to the north, the poorer everyone gets?” – Sins.

“If I recall correctly, there’s a cheap establishment on the northern bank of the river. We should be able to get some cheap lodging there for a few nights before moving on.” – Ignus, gruffly.

The somewhat distant sound of hammer ringing upon steel stands out to Ignus’ ear, being a keen aficionado of such craft himself, and he unconsciously finds himself pushing his stumpy legs onwards through the city, towards the source of the sound.

The companions pass out from under the shadow of the great keep, passing the occasional patrol of guards and general foot-traffic and carriages through the streets. They take note of a two-story building of stone and wooden construction, a thick overgrown garden stretches across the façade of the establishment. The black-painted door is closed, and a sign hangs above it, gently swaying in the breeze.

The Or’Saer Emporium

Eventually, the companions come to the Main Thoroughfare, the first bridge constructed to cross the Adhainn. This close to the river, the rush of water powering waterwheels and the general clamour of Stonebridge’s industry is near overpowering to one such as Hadrina, who would much rather find herself alone in a quiet forest glade, but for Ignus, it is a comforting thing. The companions cross the bridge and come to the northern bank.

Ignus immediately notices an Invarrian blacksmith, tall and heavily built, black-and-white piebald pelt, silver-grey creeping into the fur around the man’s muzzle, working away at the forge. He recognises the Invarrian, though it has been some years since he saw him last and cannot remember the man’s name. He nods to himself, intending to return later, and continues onwards.

Together, the companions find themselves upon the threshold of the Pallid Mare. It is a tall, narrow building, larger than most in this part of town, made of wood and supported with that same grey stone which seems to be such a popular building material here. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it does sound quite busy inside, the faint sound of muffled revelry drifting out, along with the homely scents of a roast meal. 

“Okay, well we’re looking to stay for five days minimum, yes?” – Ignus, stopping just outside the establishment to confer with his companions.

“I doubt he’s going to let us leave before then, so yes.” – Hadrina, rolling her eyes and indicating Syntherion. The Jeleni’s eyes are wide and darting around with excitement, taking in every new sight he can.

“Sorry, I wasn’t listening. Yeah, definitely, we can’t miss the festival guys!” – Syntherion, excitedly.

“And the festival is when exactly?” – Ignus, feeling like he has asked this question at least five times in the last few weeks.

“The festival begins three nights after the Chéserquine has passed and usually lasts for a few days after that.” – Syntherion answers, confidently.

The dwarf leads his two companions through the doors and into the tavern. Within, it is significantly more pleasant than outside. It is surprisingly spacious inside, and between the half-dozen oil lanterns strung up on the walls and the flames burning fitfully in the fireplace in the corner, it is well-lit. Six large tables dominate the centre of the common room, some of them occupied, and there are several booths up against the far wall. The bar, to the left upon walking in, is attended by a short, middle-aged Southron woman, dark-haired with dusky skin and dark eyes, slightly portly in a dull red dress under a leather apron.

“How can I help you? Are you all together?” – The innkeeper, drawing three flagons out from under the bar.

“We are. Looking to stay here, take shelter over the next, uh, let’s say six nights, just to be on the safe side. Just one room will do for us I think. Actually, I cannot recall, do you have rooms with three beds?” – Ignus, thoughtful.

“Rooms come with two beds, but we can have a third cot brought in for you if you’d prefer to stay together. For the six nights, that will be thirty coppers all up.” – The innkeeper, reassuringly.

They split the bill evenly, though there is a little scrounging as they do their best to compile their small-change. Eventually, Ignus hands the coppers to the dark-haired woman, who pockets it all.

“What’s the conversion rate for coppers to sulvers again?” – Redshirt.
“Yeah, twelve coppers to a sulver. Sorry.” – with a laugh.
“Why?” – Yohan, and I swear to God, you can hear the pain in his voice.
“Because if he changes it, it’ll no longer be a dime-a-dozen system.” – Sins.

“Thank you for your patronage. Here you are, third storey, first door on the left. I only have the one key I’m afraid, so you will have to share. Oh, and I will ensure a cot is delivered to the room by the time you intend to retire.” – The innkeeper, handing a thick brass key to the dwarf, who nods his thanks.

“What the f*** are you doing?” – Redshirt, to Sins.
“He’s stealing my pencils one by one when I’m not looking so I have to keep getting more out.” – Yohan, shaking his head.
“I’ve got heaps of pencils guys, I can get them out if you like?”
“Oh nah man, we brought plenty, Sins is just being a d***.” – Yohan, laughing.
“Actually, on that note, I filled this box here yesterday afternoon to take to the other session, and it depleted overnight. None of those guys steal stationery, so I’m convinced, somehow, you took them Sins.”
“You should know that by now, after eight years of this. I sleep in your backyard and sneak in to take your pencils and sharpeners.” – Sins, who is probably joking, but if he’s not, it would explain so very much.

Taking their seats in a booth against the wall, they confer once more to determine their plans.

“By my reckoning, we have maybe an hour and a half until sundown. What were you planning to do in that time?” – Ignus, his height leaving his legs gently swinging as he sits at the table.

“Well, whatever it is you both choose to do, I’ll keep an eye on the kid for you Ignus, make sure he doesn’t get himself into too much trouble.” – Hadrina, with a side-eyed glance at Syntherion, who is only partially paying attention to the conversation.

“I think I will go back down to the river, see if I can find some work at a smithy. Looked like a few craftsmen there I may be able to provide at least some assistance to.” – Ignus, gruffly.

Abruptly, the Jeleni youth stands and trots over to the bar. Cursing softly under her breath, Hadrina follows him.

“Are you old enough to drink?” – the innkeeper, looking Syntherion up and down with her dark brown eyes.

“No, he’s not.” – Hadrina, in a quiet growl from over his shoulder.

“No, I’m not, but I am old enough to perform, no?” – Syntherion, cheerfully with a smile.

“A performer you say? Very well, they could all use a little cheering up.” – The innkeeper, gesturing towards a slightly raised platform stage in the rear corner of the room. There’s a table upon it, and a few seats, currently unoccupied.

She snaps her fingers and two young Midlanders emerge from the door to the backroom behind her.

“Boys, shift that table, would you?” – The innkeeper, and the boys hurry to oblige.

“There we are, set yourself up over there love and you’ll get a hot meal for free tonight if you’re any good.” – The innkeeper, smiling and indicating the stage, now free of the furniture, save for one wooden seat.

“Thank you, I look forward to the meal.” – Syntherion, with admirable confidence, happily trotting over to the seat left for him on the stage and beginning to quietly tune his psaltery.

“If you mind the boy, I’m going to drop off my gear find out about that work.” – Ignus, grumbling to Hadrina. The Danann nods and he traipses upstairs to leave his pack behind, and then upon coming back down he leaves them with a nod, pushing his way out of the doors and into the afternoon sunlight outside.

“Now, is there anything I can get you?” – The innkeeper, to Hadrina. Unlike her interaction with Synth, and even Ignus, her tone seems a little cold, guarded and/or wary. Hadrina’s not entirely sure which, but she’s simultaneously used to it and resentful. She sighs.

“Ah why not? A shot of whiskey please. I’ll need it if he’s going to be playing all night.” – Hadrina, jerking her head in the direction of Syntherion, blissfully tuning his instrument.

The innkeeper pulls a small wooden tumbler from under the bar and fills it with a shot of very dark whiskey. Hadrina downs it in one mouthful, and immediately feels that familiar rushing sense of warmth coursing through her, before everything seems to just tilt and distort slightly. It is some very heavy stuff, and she silently curses having not eaten since the night before.

“Ah, perfect!” – Syntherion’s happy voice is then nearly drowned out as he runs his bow over the strings of the psaltery and a slightly discordant wailing note emanates forth.

Hadrina winces and moves back to their booth.

“I’m glad I’ve left.” – Yohan.
“Honestly, it’s more because I’m babysitting.” – Redshirt
“To be fair, Synth got five degrees of success on the Performance Check, he’s actually pretty good. It’s just a terrible instrument.”

There is a smattering of applause upon the end of the first song, and Synth stands to bow and receive their praise. He looks across at Hadrina and winks at her before taking up the instrument once more and launching into the next piece.

* * *

Upon crossing the Main Thoroughfare once more, Ignus’ walk along the southern bank is quite pleasant. One smithy in particular catches his eye, the forge attended by a lone Bruin, a broadly built old man with ash dusting his already pale-grey pelt. Scorch-marks blacken his corded forearms and one amber eye peaks out from beneath his heavily furrowed brow. His other eye is covered by a rough leather eye-patch. He works ceaselessly at the cherry-red steel upon the anvil, looking up for barely a second only to grunt a greeting to Ignus as he approaches, before looking down to focus upon the steel once more.

“Afternoon there. I’m looking for some kind of manual work to keep me busy, earn a little coin. What say you?” – Ignus, holding a hand out in greeting.

“Could always use a steady assistant. Name’s Alvariste. Welcome to the Steel-Mill.” – The smith, shrugging and taking Ignus’ hand in his own.

The next hour or so passes swiftly for Ignus as he assists around the forge as best he can, shifting finished stock and re-ordering the inventory. He lifts an unsealed wooden crate to the front bench and notices the collection of finely crafted blades within, no fittings yet, just the blade and bare tang. The dwarf withdraws one and inspects it more closely, noting Alvariste’s trade-mark and the quality of the work. He places the blade back in the crate and seals it, readying it for delivery to the keep’s armoury on the morrow.

As he does so, he notes that for the first time since meeting Alvariste, the clamour of hammer ringing on steel has halted. He looks up with his clouded eyes and sees the Bruin standing beside the anvil, the steel upon it growing cold, hammer held loosely by his side. He is grumbling about something under his breath, in a language Ignus does not recognise, but the glare he is directing across the river to the site of another forge is unmistakable. It is the smithy of the Invarrian man Ignus noted earlier that afternoon.

“A competitor?” – Ignus, approaching Alvariste, who shrugs and turns around to appraise him.

“Of sorts. F****** Salt-Forge.” – Alvariste, his tone venomous.

“You have some fine work here. Surely the quality sells itself?” – Ignus, genuine.

“Gratitude friend. Alas, sadly not. That bastard over there sells all his wares for far less than their market value and cutting corners in the construction. It’s forcing me out of business.” – Alvariste, shaking his head.

“What about the army, or the guard? They would value quality over cost, no?” – Ignus, his brow furrowed.

“That’s what that crate you just put on the bench is for, a contract with the guard. Their armourers will furnish those blades for use. Unfortunately, Arhaut’s army is supplied by other smiths, part of the Iron Ring, a guild of craftsmen I have yet to earn invitation to join. I was lucky enough to win this contract, but that is the last I have now. I am now relying almost solely on the Festivale in a few days hence. There will be many travellers coming through, new money to target, and the roads are dangerous. I hope there will be those among them looking for weapons and armour.” – Alvariste, moving to a seat by the front bench.

The two men take a moment to rest as the late afternoon sun starts to dip in the sky. Looking across the river, Alvariste gives a grunt of displeasure as he watches the Invarrian smith at the Saltforge leave the establishment, swinging a long red coat around his broad shoulders. Two young apprentices, one a fairly small individual of indeterminate race and the other a tall, slender Feartarbh, begin to pack up the shopfront.

“Ah, the joys of having apprentices to do the drudgery.” – Ignus, with a short bark of laughter.

“More luck to him, at least he can afford to put them on. It pains me to think of the schooling they are receiving and how much it must lack.” – Alvariste, shaking his head.

“One day, I hope your luck will change, and quality will win out. Is there anything more I can do to help you, friend?” – Ignus, clapping a hand to the Bruin’s shoulder.

“No, the sun is setting and we had best seek shelter for the night. The Chéserquine should not arrive tonight, but one can’t be too careful. Here, for your trouble this afternoon.” – Alvariste, fishing a sulver out of the pouch at his belt and offering it to Ignus.

“I couldn’t take it. I simply wished to pass the time and perhaps learn a little about this place. You have troubles enough of your own without passing charity to a friend. Keep it.” – Ignus, shaking his head and refusing the offered coin.

“My thanks. If ever you have need of quality steel-work-“ – Alvariste, offering his hand to shake.

“I will know the man to come to.” – Ignus, taking the Bruin’s hand in a strong grip of his own.

* * *

The sun has almost entirely set by the time Ignus arrives at the Pallid Mare. He swings the doors open and finds the tavern considerably busier than he left it. The near wall has a few bedrolls bundled up against the base of the wall, and every table is now attended. Upon the raised platform on the other side of the room, Syntherion sits upon his seat, psaltery leaning against the leg of the chair and a plate with a small, hot meal perched precariously in his lap. He is slowly eating, but he is paying little attention to the food, captivated instead by the crowd of people all around.

Hadrina, sitting alone in a booth not far from Syntherion’s stage, nods to Ignus and waves down the innkeeper, Mallida. The Southron woman brings two flagons of ale to the booth as Ignus sits at the table and joins Hadrina.

“Gods, you’ll need this if he starts up again.” – Hadrina, pushing one of the flagons of ale across the table to the seated dwarf.

“Thanks, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Anything of note happen while I was gone?” – Ignus, quaffing half of his flagon and then patting his mouth dry with his tightly braided grey beard.

“No, not so much. Synth played for an hour or so, then stopped and collected a few coppers. Other than a few dirty looks from some of the patrons arriving during his second set, nothing really happened. He’s been very well behaved.” – Hadrina, taking a draught of her own ale. Her normally controlled actions and mannerisms seem a little sloppy, and it is clear that she’s had a fair bit to drink over the last few hours, the better to withstand Syntherion’s musical stylings.

“Well then, let’s put an end to it for the night then. Synth! Lad, come over here, enough for tonight!” – Ignus, beckoning to the young Jeleni who is only now finishing his meal. He grabs his plate and psaltery and trots over to the booth, joining his companions there. As he does so, there is a small smattering of applause from the patrons of the tavern.

“Ignus! How did your afternoon go?” – Synth, cheerfully sitting down upon the seat opposite the surly dwarf.

“Not too bad boy, not too bad. Think I may have found us a friend.” – Ignus, finishing the ale Hadrina bought for him.

“What’s the plan then? This event, it isn’t due to occur for another night or two yet, yes?” – Hadrina, inquiring of her companions.

“Most likely not tonight, no. Could be, but probably not. Either tomorrow night or the night after, from what I can tell.” – Syntherion, fiddling with the strings of his psaltery.

“I plan upon heading out and replenishing some of our supplies tomorrow. I do not wish to enter the forest to the north, but there is another on the southern bank which should be able to provide what we need.” – Hadrina, thoughtful.

“We’ll need more than just what you can find in the woods though. I’ll see if I can’t find a way to earn some honest employment for the next week or so, to supplement your offerings.” – Ignus, gruff, already thinking about how best to do so.

“And I’ll explore the town then and see if I can find anything interesting for us.” – Syntherion, excitedly.

“Hmm, that worries me. Stay out of trouble kiddo.” – Hadrina, a note of concern in her voice.

“Since when do I get into trouble in strange towns?” – Syntherion, unable to keep the amusement out of his voice.

They engage in a little more small talk as the night carries on, and the three order a little more food too, Ignus not having eaten as of yet. Soon enough the three decide to retire for the evening, having had several long hard days out on the road.

The room they share is not particularly well-furnished, two single beds against either wall, a small window facing south towards the river and a temporary cot set up between the more permanent beds. A single wardrobe sits near the door and a small writing desk lies under the window against the wall.

Ignus clambers carefully into the cot, and curses under his breath as he hears it creak and shift under his weight. He is lucky however, and it holds strong.

* * *

The pale light of the sun just begins to illuminate the lands surrounding Stonebridge when Hadrina awakens. She exits the room quietly and descends into the silent common room, surprised to see a young girl there, a Southron and sharing perhaps some familial resemblance with Mallida.

“Uh hello there, do you need anything?” – The girl, a little startled by Hadrina’s sudden appearance.

“You’d be as good as anyone to tell me I guess. Is it possible to hunt in the woods to the south? I know the forest to the north is off-limits.” – Hadrina.

“Ah yes, the woods around the Viltshaws are exceptionally dangerous this time of year. The Arbret though, to the south is, well, dangerous as well, but far less so. If it is meat that you are after, there are vendors in-“ – The girl, looking a little confused as Hadrina holds up a hand.

“No, I am hoping to make a little money off my work. A vendor will do me no good. I assume there is little of note to hunt on the plains?” – Hadrina, cutting her off.

“Little indeed. Most of the animals are livestock.” – The girl, shaking her head.

“Very well, the forest it is. What’s your name girl?” – Hadrina.

“Taree. Is there anything else?” – The girl, with a slightly unnerved smile.

“No, that will be all. Thank you.” – Hadrina, who promptly exits the tavern, out into the cold, grey fog of the morning.

* * *

It is a few hours later that Ignus and Syntherion eventually awaken, the gruff dwarf groaning at the stiffness in his joints as he pulls himself out of the cot. Syntherion, for his part, feels much better rested, and he happily bounds out of the bed with an excited expression on his face.

“Morning Ignus! Are you going back to the smithy today?” – Synth, way too cheerful for the early hours.

“Aye lad, I will be.” – Ignus, groaning in a little pain and rummaging through his gear. He takes a few pieces of forging equipment out of his pack, and the long steel contraption he keeps strapped to the side and lays them out, before bundling them up in a hessian bag and slinging it over his shoulder.

“I think I will go down to the river and play upon the bridge. Maybe I’ll go find myself some food, or go see a show if there are any being played. I could do both. Oh, Ignus, I nearly forgot, your thing, your contraption…” – Synth, wistfully, then pointing at the steel device as the dwarf places it in the bag.

“Aye, what of it?” – Ignus, only partially paying attention.

“What is it?” – Synth, curious.

“It’s a weapon lad. A ranged weapon.” – Ignus, not really wanting to explain the delicate workings of the device to the insatiable Jeleni.

“Like a sling?” – Synth, thoughtful.

“Yeah, sure.” – Ignus.

“And is it finished?” – Synth, in a tone of voice which normally promises trouble on the horizon.

“No, not yet. I am going to take it with me to the forge and hopefully get a chance to work on it a little more.” – Ignus.

“Can I help you make it?” – Synth, holding out a hand. Lying there upon the palm, contrasting with the tawny fur, are two gleaming golden coins.

“Synth, that is an awful lot of money there lad.” – Ignus, a little taken-aback by the youth’s generosity.

“No it isn’t. I can make this back in like a day.” – Synth. He’s wrong, but he doesn’t know it.

“I promise I’ll pay you back when it is done. Thank you lad.” – Ignus, quite touched.

“I’ll make sure to mark it down so we both remember.” – Syntherion, brightly, smiling happily.

The Jeleni will forget within the hour.

* * *

Hadrina stands upon the eaves of the Arbret, the golden yellow grass all around her slowly giving way to the tall, dark pines of the wood. She has been on the look-out for coinin all morning, and so far at least, has been out of luck, but now she has stopped in her tracks. Her keen eyes catch a glimpse of a shape moving in between the trees, russet fur with dappled black and white spots. There, another, and then a third, a smaller one. Three deer, quite small, the third of them a fawn grazing alongside its mother.

She sniffs the air, and, careful to remain downwind, Hadrina slowly stalks towards her prey, silently crossing the ground with an almost preternatural grace. She draws to just within range of the foremost animal, not the mother or her fawn, and, keeping her motion gentle and smooth, nocks an arrow to the string. Suddenly, her luck deserts her, and the wind changes.

The deer’s head raises, and its ears flick. The animal’s brown eyes catch sight of the figure and it bolts into the depths of the forest. A primal urge rises within Hadrina, and she looses the moment it springs into action, the arrow leaping from the string and taking the deer in the back of the head, pitching it forward to tumble into the dropped pine-needles upon the forest floor.

Exhaling and releasing the pent-up tension and excitement from the hunt, Hadrina starts forward to retrieve her prize.

* * *

The golden sun is high in the sky, beating away the early morning mist, not that Ignus’ eyes take much note of that. He makes his way across the Main Thoroughfare and arrives, hessian sack over his shoulder and Syntherion in tow, at the Steel-Mill.

“Ah, you’ve returned, friend!” – Alvariste, looking up from the iron he is hammering upon the anvil.

“I have indeed. I thought perhaps I could offer my services again, and perhaps use your forge for a time, if you would permit?” – Ignus, dropping the sack to the ground and extending a hand to shake in greeting.

“Of course, be my guest. I have no orders at the moment.” – Alvariste, clasping the dwarf’s hand in his own clawed grip.

“I will have need of substantial materials I’m afraid, but I would not see you out of pocket.” – Ignus, withdrawing a crown from his pocket and handing it to the Bruin.

“That is- generous, very generous. My forge is yours.” – Alvariste, clearly a little surprised by both Ignus’ wealth and generosity.

“I appreciate it.” – Ignus, nodding.

Alvariste gives the tall, spindly figure of Syntherion a pointed glance.

“A travelling companion. It’s a long story.” – Ignus, quietly. He turns back to the already distracted Jeleni as Alvariste gives a small snort of smusement.

“Okay kid, don’t get into any trouble-“ – Ignus, clearly already aware of Synth’s plans for the morning.

“I won’t. You know I don’t do that.” – Synth, brightly.

“Yeah, well, look, if you need help, just come back here, okay? You know where you are?” – Ignus, concerned.

“I do, I’ll be fine. Have fun!” – Synth, who then happily trots away back to the Main Thoroughfare.

“He’s going to die.” – Ignus, under his breath.

“We are terrible parents.” – Redshirt.
“I’m more of a grumpy uncle really.” – Yohan.
“Synth’s actual parents were more than happy for him to just take off on the road. They actively encouraged this. That speaks volumes I feel.” – Sins.
“I have no doubt he can hold his own. He runs very fast.” – Yohan.
“As bad as you two are, his real parents were worse.”

* * *

Within fifteen minutes, Syntherion is hopelessly lost, wandering aimlessly through the alleyways of Stonebridge. Thankfully, at this mid-morning hour there are very few unsavoury individuals upon the streets and he is not harassed at any point, but the fact remains, he is lost. He tries to keep an ear out for the sound of the river, but it is lost amidst the general sounds of the town, the clamour of industry and the nearby marketplace.

And then he smells it, a glorious scent borne upon the winds towards him. His eyes widen.

Baked goods.

Gods, could it be? Cinnamon, yes.

Baked goods and cinnamon can only mean one thing in the mind of Syntherion Voiculescu.


He takes off at a run, his powerful legs propelling him through the alleyways at a rapid pace. He vaults over a low wall with nary a pause, and finds himself on the outskirts of a busy marketplace. He tracks the scent all the way to a stall replete with baked goods. He sidles up beside it, and slowly, so as not to startle the wonderful pastries, removes the psaltery from his belt, and begins to tune it.

“This is wonderful.” – Syntherion says to himself.

He starts to take up a tune on the instrument, which gradually picks up speed and fervour. As he plays, he dances a little jig and he improvises a song, espousing the glory and virtues of the humble cinnamon donut. The stall-holder, at first bemused by this admittedly bizarre occurrence, is swiftly brought around to the idea, as more and more people congregate around the stall to witness this performance, and not a few of them buy a donut to go along with it.

* * *

Walking through the farmlands surrounding the town, Hadrina comes upon a large, flat rock, which she determines will do the job rather nicely. She lays the carcass of the deer down upon it, and, drawing a sharp, curved knife from her belt, begins to expertly skin and dress her catch. The work is swift and easy, and other than a slight slip near the loins of the deer, where she damages the pelt slightly, completed with no trouble.

Collecting the bones, the meat and the pelt into separate hessian sacks, Hadrina makes her way back to Stonebridge proper. She sells the bones and the pelt, picking up a few coppers for her trouble, and salts the meat to have it last on the road.

* * *

It is midday and Syntherion finds himself sitting upon the edge of a bridge, overlooking the north-bank of the Adhainn, eating the last of the two pastries gifted to him by the stall-owner. The man had been happy to part with the two wonderful delicacies in exchange for the minstrel’s departure, the droning of the psaltery becoming too much to deal with after more than an hour, regardless of the skill of the player.

“Okay Synth, town square, that’s the plan.” – Syntherion, wiping the crumbs from the front of his shirt. He stands and starts to cross the bridge when his ears prick up.

Is that? No… It is.

A marching band!

“How could I miss that!?” – Syntherion, excitedly to himself, dashing away over the bridge towards the sound of the procession.

Nearly forty musicians marching in unison, bearing a wide assortment of instruments begin crossing the Main Thoroughfare from the south. All are clad in black, with an array of bone-like and skeletal designs upon their clothing. Not a few bear real bones sewn into the fabric. At the fore of the parade is a single figure, a huge man, eight foot tall at least, clad in a long black coat and hood which obscures his face, over which he wears a crown of spiked bone, the spurs of which protrude upwards like thorns. He rides a huge black destrier, powerfully built, the only member of the procession to be thus mounted.

Crowds of people line the wide bridge as Syntherion arrives to see the parade turn back when they reach the northern bank, and head back towards the south.

“The King, the King!” – Cries arising from the crowd, excited and rather joyous. Since arriving in Stonebridge, this is the most animated Syntherion has seen the general populace.

Suddenly, the coat of the rider is ripped open, and three black-clad Leathe emerge, revealing the man to have been three Leathe balancing upon each other’s shoulders. Together they engage in an energetic display of acrobatics and leaping as the band continues to play, the tune growing more and more boisterous.

The parade is cacophonous as the crowd’s cheering increases with every trick, the bones sewn into the performers’ clothing clatter with every movement and the band’s volume raises ever higher. All thoughts of performing himself are driven from Syntherion’s mind as he is drawn into the celebrations. Easily led astray he might be, but a fool he is not however, and the thought suddenly occurs to the minstrel that this parade, while a moment of levity, is a light-hearted take on what may happen tonight. A spectral cavalcade rampaging through the streets, sweeping up all before them.

Despite the midday sun, Synth shivers slightly, but the moment soon passes and he drawn into the pageantry of the parade once more.

* * *

As the day continues, Ignus works away at the forge, alternating between working upon his personal project and assisting Alvariste with general Steel-Mill business. Eventually, the Dwergar completes the long, steel tube, fully tempering the steel and reinforcing the barrel. He is even begins to prepare the steel to receive runes of power. He is unable to impart the actual power at this stage, but he can begin preparing for it.

“That little ‘tick’ you have there? You’ll want to lengthen that line a touch on the parallel axis.” – Alvariste, looking over Ignus’ shoulder at the Dwergar’s runecraft.

“You’re adept in this craft?” – Ignus, surprised, and taking the smith’s advice, chipping away at the line in question, just a little more.

“Aye, I am but enough of that. This. Now this, is fantastic. Hardened, reinforced steel, such an even density throughout, and this pattern on the inside, this coil etched into the steel. Masterful craftsmanship my friend.” – Alvariste, taking a single claw and tapping it against the steel barrel.

“Thank you. The coil you speak of, I call it rifling. It imparts a similar spiral on a projectile as an arrow’s fletching does, correcting small inconsistencies in flight.” – Ignus, proud of his invention.

“I’ve tried my hand at making fireloques in the past, but it never even occurred to me to attempt something like that. Incredible.” – Alvariste, genuinely impressed.

The two sit down at the front bench and Alvariste opens a locked steel box hidden beneath the bench, withdrawing a small keg from within it, the wood cold and slick. Within the steel box, Ignus can see a few slabs of ice against each side. The Bruin winks at him, and produces two beaten-up tankards, which he fills with beer from the keg.

“A trick of my people. Can be hard to purchase the ice, but there’s nothing better on a hot day than an icy cold beer friend.” – Alvariste, handing a full tankard to Ignus and then clinking it with his own.

“Can’t argue with that.” – Ignus, accepting the tankard and quaffing half of it.

“Look, I hate to ask it of you, but you’ve been asking if you can be of service to me, and, well, this is the best way I can think of.” – Alvariste, his expression a little troubled.

For his part, Ignus merely sits and waits in silence.

“I need someone to get rid of that bastard over the way. Not kill him, don’t mistake me, just embarrass him enough to ruin his business.” – Alavriste, giving Ignus a worried look as the dwarf reaches for the nearly completed rifle. The dwarf chuckles.

“What did you have in mind?” – Ignus.

“If someone with a keen eye and a nose for this kind of work were to discredit him, it would have to be beneficial for all the struggling craftsmen in these parts. Understand, it is not just me that is being put out of business.” – Alvariste, shrugging.

“Ah yes, a smith with decades of experience who doesn’t give a s*** about pissing someone off. I’m sure I don’t know anyone who fits the bill.” – Ignus, completely deadpan.

“Oh aye, I’m sure you don’t.” – Alvariste, with a grunt of amusement.

“I shall ponder it overnight. I think tomorrow morning I may go over there and ask for a demonstration, and see if I can’t break a blade in half, or something else dramatic like that which will draw attention.” – Ignus, finishing his drink.

“I look forward to it.” – Alvariste, refilling the dwarf’s tankard from the keg.

* * *

As the sun begins to dip in the horizon, bells start to ring all through Stonebridge. The crowd upon the bridge begins to disperse and the marching band cease their performance abruptly. An old man in simple brown robes, wearing the three-sided symbol of the Triad around his neck rings a bell in hand. Beside him walk two guards, clad in the dark-blue livery of Stonebridge.

“Tonight is the night of the Chéserquine! If any require shelter for the night, they may find it in the church of the Triad!” – The brown-robed man, ringing his bell and walking along the bridge. Syntherion can hear distantly, the identical calls of other people elsewhere in the town.

* * *

“That’s our cue. You have a place to stay for the night, aye?” – Alvariste, hearing the bells begin to ring upon the streets.

“We do, a room in the Pallid Mare.” – Ignus, packing up his gear.

“A bit s*****, but alright.” – Alvariste.

“Better than the ground.” – Ignus.

“True enough. Especially so tonight. Don’t go outside, whatever you might hear. For your own safety. I hope to see you on the morrow.” – Alvariste.

“You will. Takes a lot to kill me.” – Ignus, gesturing towards his eyes.

“I don’t doubt it.” – Alvariste, a knowing look in his eye.

* * *

Ignus is crossing the Main Thoroughfare when he notices a familiar, tall, lanky figure bouncing his way.

“Ignus! There you are!” – Syntherion, on his way back to the Steel-Mill. The tall Jeleni youth looks as if he can barely contain his excitement.

“Synth, time to be heading back to the inn I think. What’s this?” – Ignus, reaching up and pulling a pastry crumb from where it was caught in the fur on Synth’s chin.

“I’m afraid I’ve eaten into our profits.” – Synth.

* * *

Hadrina enters the Pallid Mare, taking in the sights around her. The tavern is packed with patrons, many drinking, but the mood is quite sombre. Only one of the booths is unoccupied, and she immediately moves towards it, thinking to claim it for her friends. The booth beside it is occupied by two people, one a russet-haired Highlander, well-built and pale-skinned, the other a slender Leathe girl with a merle coloured pelt and long brown hair. She is chattering away excitedly, and Hadrina notes that while the man is listening, he is not paying too much attention.

The Danann’s own attention must have alerted the man, because he turns to look at her as she stalks across the room towards the unoccupied booth. As he does so, the Leathe swiftly grabs the tankard before her and empties a little of it out on the floor beneath the table and places it back on the table in one smooth motion.

Hadrina snorts at this and sits down in the booth, ordering two ales and a watered wine, before waiting for her friends. She need not wait long, as the two disparate figures wander in through the doors only a few minutes later.

“Evening lass. How was your hunt?” – Ignus, to Hadrina, gratefully accepting the ale.

“Well, I hope you like venison.” – Hadrina, shrugging.

“It’ll do. Hope it lasts until after this festival. Do we know what happens during this festival? I missed it last time I was here.” – Ignus, gruff.

“There’ll be acrobats and jugglers and marching bands and illusionists and so much food and-“ – Synth, starting to get very excited.

“Okay lad, that’s enough, I get the idea. Maybe you could ask if you could play again tonight.” – Ignus, shaking his head as the youth smiles, nods and leaves the table.

“You won’t be able to get rid of him like that forever, you know?” – Hadrina, with a slight smile, the expression somewhat feral on her Danann features. 

“Watch me. I’ll keep doing it until it doesn’t work, and not a day sooner.” – Ignus, taking a deep draught of ale.

Syntherion approaches the bar and gathers Mallida’s attention.

“Yes love? What do you want?” – Mallida, friendly but brusque and business-like.

“I was wondering if perhaps you would like some music again?” – Synth, his expression one of guileless innocence.

“Maybe for an hour or so, but once dark fully sets in we should not draw attention to ourselves. Until then though, yes, that would be great. Help keep the spirits up.” – Mallida, jerking her head to two of the serving boys to shift the table upon the raised stage again.

Before long a drawn-out discordant note rings out as Syntherion gains the crowd’s attention with the psaltery. Ignus grinds his teeth and orders another ale and Hadrina just laughs to herself as Synth launches into a ribald song about a cat who thought it could leap between the moons, a brief moment of levity before a spectral cavalcade rampages through the streets of Stonebridge this night.

A chill runs down her spine.

And we left it there…

The Wrap-Up:
Another really good prologue session, this one felt a little different to the others. I guess part of this may be down to how the character dynamic developed in an opposite fashion in this one. In the previous two sessions, the characters were separate and then met and came together. In this game however, all three were well known to each other, and then spent most of the session pursuing their own individual goals.

As an aside, I love Syntherion. What an absolute nightmare of a character. :D

My intention was to only have a single prologue each before the main session, but that lasted up until immediately after the second prologue, whereupon Pugsley, Ladyhawk and LaPD asked to have a second prologue, which was played.

As such, the next instalment will be with them on the eve of the Chéserquine.

As always, we hope you enjoyed this, and thank you for reading.

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Re: Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow - A Norbayne Campaign Log
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2020, 06:12:45 AM »
Session 0.4: The Watcher, the Potion-Seller and the Ice-Maiden

”…Exalt the Weave.

There is no greater glory than to end the life of one who has been selected to die. To spill blood for the Utility is the greatest honour.

Exalt the Weave…”

- From Catechisms of the Utility.

Welcome to the fourth, and last, prologue session of Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow. Our players for this session are SgtPugsley, Ladyhawk95 and LaPimpDaddy.

Hearing Aderyn’s repeated calling from the room upstairs, Marwolaeth descends, expecting to find a customer within the shop. She swiftly realises that Shadow must have left, and spends a few moments perusing her stock and ensuring nothing was taken. Satisfied, she returns upstairs and knocks gently on the doorframe of the spare-room.

“Yes?” – Brynn’s voice, slightly muffled.

Marwolaeth slightly cracks the door open a touch. She cannot see Brynn, but she does note Venn, the mammoth still happily bouncing from one end of the bed to the other, his trunk waving from side to side as he does so.

“Marwolaeth’s expression doesn’t change. You’ll never know if her heart is melting inside her or not.” – LaPD.
“We all know it is.” – Ladyhawk.

“Ah sorry, Shadow’s not in there with you, is he?” – Marwolaeth, slightly awkward.

“No, why would he be?” – Brynn’s voice, neutral.

“No, indeed, why would he be? Well, he’s gone, I don’t know where he is.” – Marwolaeth, still a little awkward.

“Okay.” – Brynn’s voice. She doesn’t seem too cut up about it.

“Soooo, I was thinking of heading into town. Would you like me to show you around at all?” – Marwolaeth, changing the subject.

“Yes actually, that would be lovely. I meant to ask you earlier if there were markets of some kind. I am in need of some supplies.” – Brynn’s voice.

“Well then, I can definitely take you to the market. Meet me downstairs when you’re ready to leave.” – Marwolaeth, closing the door. She exhales heavily and then turns to Caitrin’s room, knocking at that door too.

“I’m heading out to the market. Do you need anything?” – Marwolaeth, a note of concern creeping into her voice.

“No, I’m okay. I’ll head downstairs and take care of the store while you’re gone.” – Caitrin, her voice a little reedy and muffled through the closed door. At least she doesn’t cough though.

“I’ll see if we’ve received any letters about the apprentice too.” – Marwolaeth, half to herself.

“Ah yes. You know, I’m still worried about an apprentice ruining our dynamic, but very well. I wait in anticipation.” – Caitrin, a little humour in her voice. It was a running joke.

“Yes, well, quite.” – Marwolaeth, not quite herself.

“Take care, I’ll see you when you return!” – Caitrin, voice.

Marwolaeth heads downstairs with a nod.

* * *

Within the guest bedroom on the second storey of the Or’Saer Emporium, Brynn stands near the door, gathering her gear.

“Okay Venn, stay here in the room, okay?” – Brynn, fastening the belt around her waist.

The little mammoth trumpets a happy affirmative.

“Because I will know, yes?” – Brynn.

Another little trumpet as the mammoth sits down upon the bed and waves her out the door with his trunk. With a smile, Brynn closes the door behind her, and the repetitive creaking sound of the mammoth’s heavy little body bouncing up and down the bed begins once more.

“I’ll get you an apple if you’re good.” – Brynn, through the door.

One last little trumpet, one of excitement as Brynn walks downstairs, meeting Marwolaeth in the open storefront.

“You’re ready to go? Let’s be on our way then.” – Marwolaeth, who turns to mumble something quietly to the raven upon the windowsill and ventures out into the town, Brynnhildr in tow.

* * *

Walking through the streets in the midday sun and keeping to the southern districts at first, Shadow notes that there does not seem to be much in the way of movement out and about. The sounds of industry carry from the river, hammers beating upon steel. He can hear too the muffled clamour of a market to the east. Wishing to see more of the town, Shadow crosses the West Bridge, noting the lesser construction of this bridge compared to the Main Thoroughfare, and takes in what lies upon the north-bank. He notes the generally less refined architecture there, and the way in which the rooves turn from the usually dark shingle-tiles of the south-bank, to the drab brown thatch of the north-bank, and the greater use of the Arbret-pine wood to construct the structures as compared to the grey stone so prevalent south of the river.

He notes too, the abandoned district on the northern edge of the town, where the curtain wall had been breached. Another, smaller stone wall has been erected since the conflict ended, and now the ghostly district is walled off and practically uninhabited. Shadow spends nearly an hour wandering the silent streets, and even enters one of the abandoned dwellings out of a sense of morbid curiosity, but finds little of note.

* * *

The brightly coloured expanse of the Grand Market stretches before Marwolaeth and Brynnhildr. Stone pillars upholding brightly coloured sails of canvas and other fabrics provide shade from the sun overhead, and beneath them the two women find evidence of the most activity Brynn has seen in town since her arrival.

The marketplace is quite full, and the hustle and bustle of mercantile endeavours permeates the air as vendors seek to sell their wares to those who pass by. The scents of baked goods and other delicious foods waft towards them too.

“Now then, if you’re after metal or leather-work, down by the river is probably the place to go, but if it is merely smallgoods you’re after, well, here we are.” – Marwolaeth, indicating the expanse of the marketplace ahead.

“I’m looking for components for my spells, so I think it might be more of a general browsing kind of thing more than something specific.” – Brynn, already starting to think about what she could use.

The atmosphere in the market is quite tense. Just about anyone out and about on this morning has congregating in and around the Grand Market, buying up on any and all essential goods they can get their hands on.

“There’s a lot of people here.” – Brynn, as she and Marwolaeth gently push their way through the crowd.

“Happens every time. People panic on the cusp of a disaster and stock up on everything they think they might need for the next month, regardless of the fact that everything will be back to normal in about three days.” – Marwolaeth, dismissive.

“Sorry Marwolaeth, hold a moment. I could use this.” – Brynn, finally finding something she could use to work her magic.

Some moments later, the two emerge from the crush of market-goers, Brynn holding a soft, downy white feather and a few lengths of silvery rope.

“I wouldn’t mind finding some paper too, or even pre-written spells if they can be found here.” – Brynn, quietly.

“Paper and spells… I think I know of someone.” – Marwolaeth, thoughtful. She pushes her way back into the crowd.

The two come upon a small stall, behind which sits an elderly woman, a Woodsman by appearance, small and frail with dark hair, turning grey. On and around the wooden stall sit many vases, filled with rolled up sheafs of parchment. The woman is muttering to herself as they approach.

“Oh no, I can’t do that. Couldn’t possibly.” – The woman, her attention firmly fixed on something the two companions cannot see.

“Excuse me?” – Brynn, politely.

“Oh yes, hello there!” – The elderly woman, brightly. The attention of her dark green eyes, slightly clouded by age, snaps straight to Brynnhildr. 

“Hello, yes. I was wondering if you might have any spells I could look at?” – Brynn, polite, if a little awkward.

“Magic, yes, yes, I do at that.” – The elderly woman. She reaches beneath the counter-top of her stall and withdraws a small wooden box, painted black and latched with brass. She opens it and reveals several stretched sheets of vellum, inscribed with spidery writing in red ink.

Flicking briefly through the vellum sheets, Brynnhildr is first struck by the artistry of the woman’s craftsmanship. Her pen-strokes are deft and sure, the fine red ink leaving the tight script of a purely practical written passage looking like a work of art. Then, as she properly starts to note the work within the box, Brynnhildr is again impressed by the thoroughness of the woman’s scholarship, as she makes reference to advanced arcane theories which, in some cases, Brynn herself does not even understand fully.

There are several spells within which Brynn does not possess the capacity to learn or understand as yet, the manipulation of elements of magic which the woman from the north has not yet learned, and perhaps never will. On the other hand, there are a few which she believes she could make use of if given the chance to study them properly.

“This is fine work. How much for one of your treatises?” – Brynn, genuinely impressed.

“Thirty-two sulvers each. I am willing to negotiate however if you would be so kind as to do a favour for me.” – The elderly woman, quickly amending her statement when she notices the startled expression begin to cross the mage’s face at the high price.

“What might this favour be?” – Brynn, willing to indulge the old woman.

“It is a rather delicate situation, but looking at you, I think you’d be able to handle it rather well. My daughter’s companion is, well, to put it bluntly, a bit of a prick. He’s disrespectful, a drunkard, I honestly cannot see why she is still with him. She runs a very successful business and he sits in the tavern drinking her money away all day. If you would have a talk to him, scare him straight, I would appreciate it, and would give you a substantial discount.” – The elderly woman, warming to her theme. The slightly vindictive light that flashes in her dark eyes is a little off-putting when compared to the otherwise sweet and innocent impression she gives.

“Maybe we shouldn’t meddle in other peoples’ affairs…” – Marwolaeth, quietly to Brynn. Her voice trails off, almost as if she doesn’t believe her opinion will be heeded anyway.

“Where is your daughter now?” – Brynnhildr, clearly giving the task some thought.

“Aela runs one of the paper-mills down by the river. A lot of the parchment I sell here is her work.” – The elderly woman, clearly proud. Marwolaeth knows that she is referring to a hamlet of sorts outside the city walls, built upon the banks of the Adhainn, where many soft-crafts utilise the power of the river to assist in their work.

“And he would be with her?” – Brynn, her eyes narrowing.

“Oh no. I believe his favourite establishment is the Pallid Mare, a s***** little drinking hole on the north-bank. Midday? That’s where he’d be, likely drinking her money away with some of his good-for-nothing friends.” – The elderly woman, a little venomous.

“Does he beat her?” – Brynn, her voice cold.

“No, that’s not his style, not that I know of anyway. He is more emotionally abusive really, though he certainly does take advantage of her.” – The elderly woman, shaking her head.

“Brynnhildr, I really can’t recommend-“ – Marwolaeth, quietly, but she does indeed go unheeded.

“I’ll go talk to him.” – Brynn, making up her mind.

“Thank you. His name is Bandon, tall for one of my people, nearly six foot I would guess. Nothing like you though. Dark hair, weasel-face, not fat as such, but not fit either. I’ll keep this box here for you and I will not sell any until you return.” – The elderly woman, looking rather pleased with herself.

“Before I leave, what does your daughter actually think of Bandon?” – Brynn, thoughtful.

“She complains about him spending the money, but she won’t leave him. I don’t know why she doesn’t though.” – The elderly woman.

“No matter, I will speak to him anyway.” – Brynn, turning on her heel and leaving.

“Brynnhildr, I don’t know if this is such a good idea.” – Marwolaeth, struggling to keep up with the tall woman’s long stride.

“It will be fine, I only intend to have a short talk with the man, scare him a little bit. Now, where is this Pallid Mare?” – Brynn, smiling a little, but the expression is cold.

“I’ll lead you there if you promise not to punch anyone. It’s a rough part of town.” – Marwolaeth, a little worried.

“I won’t hit anyone, I’m just going to scare him, as I said.” – Brynn, consoling.

Together, the two women make their way to the north-bank of the Adhainn, leaving the Grand Market behind.

* * *

Eventually Shadow turns for the south once more, crossing the river and making for the keep, the mighty stone fortification which towers over the town, overlooking it from a slight hilly rise on the south-bank. He knows it to be the seat of the Rodelle family, currently helmed by the Marquess Lyndon Rodelle and his wife, Henrietta. Looking at the structure a little closer too, Shadow is simultaneously struck by the sheer magnitude of it and the expert masonry of the smooth, stone-blocks which form the walls. The keep is comparable with the Main Thoroughfare in construction, and Shadow posits that both of the great structures were raised by the same people, though he does not know the history of this land.

He takes in the number of guards who seem to be patrolling the keep and the immediate town around it, noting that here, on the south-bank, or at least in close proximity to the keep, the guards wear a black-and-red quartered surcoat over chain, and do not bear the livery of the town, but rather their crest depicts a stylised white tree. There are perhaps a dozen guards manning the high walls of the keep, most of Midlander stock and armed with crossbows, though there is some variety in both race and armaments.

The gateway into the keep is barred by a steel portcullis, the portal leading to an open courtyard beyond. At this time, Shadow can see no one within the courtyard itself.

* * *

Marwolaeth leads Brynnhildr to a narrow, tall building made of wood, the tough Arbret-pine so popular in this region, and reinforced with grey stone. A sign hangs from above, depicting a rearing white horse and the name, emblazoned across the top, The Pallid Mare.

“I hate this place.” – Marwolaeth, under her breath, too quietly for her companion to hear.

Brynnhildr strides to the doors, and pushes them open, revealing an interior surprisingly bright and clean compared to what one would expect upon laying eyes upon the exterior. Half a dozen lit lanterns are set into the walls, providing some illumination to the room, which seems relatively busy, if a little subdued at this hour. A handful of people seem to be partaking of lunch and a drink. Marwolaeth knows that the food here, while usually fairly tasty, can be a little hit and miss on exactly what you’re eating, and the beer, which she would never touch herself, has tendency to be a little watery.

A portly Southron woman with dark hair and dark eyes stands behind the bar, and her sharp eyes catch the two companions entering the establishment immediately.

“What can I get for you?” – The innkeeper, brusque.

“Nothing for us, thank you, but I am looking for a man named Bandon. Woodsman.” – Brynn, quietly as she strides confidently to the bar.

“Bandon, Bandon, ah yes, the wastrel. Over there in the corner.” – The innkeeper, pointing to a table upon a raised platform in the corner of the room, close to some booth seats set against the far wall.

Brynnhildr places two copper coins down onto the bar.

“Thank you, but cause no trouble please.” – The innkeeper, pocketing the coins.

Nodding, Brynn turns her gaze towards her target. She sees a group of three men, probably all in their late twenties, sitting at the table. One, matching the description she was given, dark-haired with pale skin and the fine, somewhat delicate features of a Woodsman. The other two look to be of Midlander blood, one with dark brown hair and tanned skin, the other ruddied and strawberry-blonde. All three look to be quite heavily into their drinks, with maybe ten empty tankards strewn about their table. As she watches, one of those tankards slowly rolls off the table and clatters to the floor. The men watch it, and laugh amongst themselves as it clatters on the wooden ground. They seem to be engaged in quite a heated conversation.

“I told her not to talk to him, not to even look at him, and she went and did it anyway!” – The Woodsman, presumably Bandon.

“She’s a whore. I’ve said it all along.” – The dark-haired Midlander, staring into the beer in the tankard before him.

“You really should teach her a lesson.” – The blonde Midlander, darkly, fixing Bandon with the intense gaze of the inebriated.

Bandon takes a long draught from his tankard, and Marwolaeth gets the impression that he is trying to buy some time to gather his thoughts.

“No, I shouldn’t do that.” – Bandon, quietly, eventually.

Marwolaeth taps Brynn’s elbow to get her attention.

“I don’t think he wants to be here to be honest. Looks like he’s fallen in with a armadilloty crowd. It might be his friends you need to deal with.” – Marwolaeth, in a quiet whisper. Brynn silently nods her agreement.

The game was interrupted briefly by an ungodly screaming from down the road. We spent a few moments trying to figure out who would be screaming bloody murder at 9:00am on a Sunday morning, but the normal culprit, Lady Darkmoon could not be found.

The conversation devolves into drunken ranting, as the two Midlanders continue on in the same vein, besmirching Aela’s name. For his part, Bandon sits there quietly, staring at the beer in the tankard before him. He grunts non-committally every now and then, but on the whole, avoids the conversation.

“Hey you there, what do you want?” – The blonde Midlander, belligerent finally noticing Brynn’s stare from across the room.

The mage says nothing at first, but simply strides over, confidently, crossing the room in a few swift steps, with the diminutive figure of Marwolaeth behind her. She towers over the men seated at the table, and fixes her gaze on the man she presumes in Bandon.

“I would like to speak to Bandon. Is he among you?” – Brynn, her tone impassive and cold.

“Aye, that’s me.” – Bandon, looking up at her with bleary eyes.

“I’d like to have a conversation with you outside Bandon.” – Brynn, her tone brooking no dissent.

“Ah yeah, sure, I guess.” – Bandon, quietly standing.

“Oi, nah, sit the f*** down. And you, f*** off!” – The blonde Midlander, roughly shoving Bandon back down in his seat and standing himself, pointing at Brynn aggressively. Despite his anger and the raised platform he stands upon, the top of the man’s head only barely reaches Brynnhildr’s chin.

Brynn’s dark grey eyes flash white, like ice frosting over glass as she mutters a brief incantation under her breath. The blonde Midlander’s eyes too, follow the same pattern, and he locks in place, unable to move, save for the jerky, panicked motion of his eyes.

“I suggest you stay here while Bandon and I have our little chat.” – Brynn, in a low growl, her voice not betraying the sharp ache she suddenly feels inside her. Drawing on her power so quickly has damaged something internally, and it is all she can do not to cry out with the pain.

She turns on her heel and walks out of the tavern, a somewhat confused Bandon following her, swaying as he goes. The other friend, the dark-haired Midlander, has passed out at the table, and Marwolaeth looks around, sees the handful of eyes attracted by the commotion which are now fixed upon her, and her alone, and follows Brynn and Bandon outside.

“Now Bandon, I’ve heard you’ve been taking advantage of Aela. Judging by the time of day and the state in which I have found you here, I am inclined to believe them.” – Brynn, slowly cornering Bandon against a wall in the alleyway outside the Pallid Mare.

“I don’t see what business it is of yours-“ – Bandon, nervously backing up against the wooden wall.

Brynnhildr grasps the man by the collar of his shirt in one fist and slams his back against the wall, her expression unchanging as if graven in stone.

“I have decided to make it my business.” – Brynn, cold.

“Okay, fair enough. What would you like me to do?’ – Bandon, clearly terrified.

“Tell me, what is your excuse for being here in this tavern, drinking Aela’s money away and talking to your friends about teaching her a lesson for doing things which I understand she would need to be doing on a day to day basis as part of her work?” – Brynn, her cold eyes narrowed.

“Ah, it’s just, uh, it’s our money. It’s not her money, we’re together. It’s our money.” – Bandon, sputtering. The stink of alcohol on his breath is starting to give Brynnhildr a headache.

“Do you do anything to help her make that money, or do you merely leech it off her?” – Brynn, her voice rising slightly.

“Uh, well, no. I guess I am just a leech.” – Bandon, ashamed, his eyes downcast.

“Do you love her? Does she love you?” – Brynn, after a moment’s pause.

“Yes, I do. And I hope so.” – Bandon, looking as if he wishes the world would just swallow him whole.

“Then I suggest you change your ways. Start treating her the way she deserves to be treated. Or else I will have to come see you again, and I don’t normally do return visits.” – Brynn, menacingly. She lifts him against the wall a little higher.

“No, no, it won’t be necessary. Thank you.” – Bandon, as he is unceremoniously dropped back to his feet.

“I would also suggest, very strongly that you never associate with those two men in there ever again. Do you honestly think they are worth it?” – Brynn, her tone now back to impassive.

“No, you’re probably right.” – Bandon, after a moment’s thought. He nods, and sets off to the south, over the bridge, and Brynnhildr and Marwolaeth watch his retreating form for a moment before entering the tavern once more.

There is a rattling gasp from the blonde man at the back table as Brynnhildr’s spell finally lapses and he draws in a massive lungful of air.

“What did you do to me!?” – The blonde Midlander, striding over to Brynnhildr. He gets within a few paces of her, with a fist cocked back to strike.

She mutters under her breath again, and feels how difficult it is to draw upon her power now with a faint stab of panic. Nonetheless, the magic flares once more, and the man’s eyes rime over with frost and he is locked in place as his body betrays him again.

“You would do well to show women more respect in the future.” – Brynn, quietly, whispering quietly. She watches as his eyes twitch slightly in panic, the only bodily function he has any control over.

With most of the patrons of the Pallid Mare staring at her now, Brynnhildr turns on her heel.

“Let’s leave Marwolaeth, I think we’re done here.” – Brynn, striding out into the early afternoon sun once more, a stunned Marwolaeth following her.

Together they make their way down the cobblestone streets towards the Grand Market once more. Coming upon the Adhainn, Marwolaeth notes Alvariste el-Ferro, the Bruin smith who runs the Steel-Mill, looks to have a new assistant, an old, heavy-set dwarf. She recalls that she needs to talk to Alvariste about a new athame at some point soon, unwilling to trust anyone else with the construction of such an important tool to her trade. 
“See, I told you I wouldn’t have to punch anyone.” – Brynn, with a slight smile.

“Yes, well, that’s true, but you did use some witchcraft on that other man. I hope word of that doesn’t spread to anyone important.” – Marwolaeth, a little worried.

Brynn’s smile disappears somewhat, and she rubs at her chest a little, almost absent-mindedly. She looks to be in a little pain, though admittedly, that could just as easily be from the arrow-wound only recently bandaged.

They cross the Main Thoroughfare together, in a companionable silence as the day wears on.

* * *

“Excuse me!” – Shadow, calling to a Midlander passer-by.

The man looks to be middle-aged, tanned with dark brown short-cropped hair and a neatly trimmed beard. His clothing is quite rich, either minor nobility or well-to-do merchantry, with a broad-bladed dagger at his belt.

“Who lives in this big one here?” – Shadow, indicating the great stone keep.

“What, the keep? That would be the Rodelle family. Are you not from around here?” – The stranger, a little bemused.

“I’m new to the area, just stopping through.” – Shadow, extending a hand in greeting.

“Ah, well in that case, welcome to Stonebridge. Yes, the Rodelles, the ruling family, most powerful nobility for many miles.” – The stranger, shaking Shadow’s hand.

“Compensating for something, are they?” – Shadow, with a sardonic smile.

“Yes, well, some have said that, sure.” – The stranger, snorting with amusement.

“What are they like personally though? And for the town?” – Shadow, a note of inquiry in his voice.

“They do well enough I guess. You wouldn’t find many who would complain about Rodelle rulership. Stonebridge is prosperous under them, with many opportunities for trade. The Rodelles do not often push themselves into the affairs of the smallfolk. No, there would not be many with problems. Those who do I would hazard a guess would be dissidents no matter who was in charge.” – The stranger, shrugging.

Shadow looks away to regard the keep once more, his thoughts racing, but he does not share them.

“Uh, if that’s all, I must be going.” – The stranger, about to leave.

“Nice shoes.” – Shadow, still not looking at the man.

“Uh, thanks. Goodbye now.” – The stranger, his shoes in question a black leather.

Shadow does not respond, and instead, starts to walk back to the Or’Saer Emporium at a slow, measured pace.

* * *

“Brynnhildr, I’m sorry, I’ve just remembered I need to go check the apothecary’s mail. Do you wish to come with me to the mail-house? It isn’t far from here.” – Marwolaeth, as the two women approach the Grand Market.

“Yes, I will come see it. I can collect my spells after.” – Brynnhildr, quietly.

The Stonebridge Herald, newspaper printed once a week and delivered around the town comes from a printing-press just east of the Grand Market, located alongside the eastern curtain wall.  Beside the facility lies a slightly smaller building, the Stonebridge Mail House. Upon entering they are greeted by an old Dunscarth man at an elevated desk, who looks down upon them, even Brynnhildr.

He is a spindly old thing, his skin a pale grey, his hair long, wispy, white and tied back out of the way. Behind him stretches a long corridor, the walls of which are lined with numbered wooden boxes, nearly from floor to ceiling. A tall wooden ladder, with wheels at the base is set into grooves on the stone floor which allow the ladder to run freely along the corridor.

“Hello there, is that Miss Plendyn Or’Saer? It is indeed. How are you?” – The old Dunscarth man, his kindly voice reedy with age.

“Yes, hello Eored. I was wondering if anything might have come in for us? ” – Marwolaeth, a little awkwardly.

“I do indeed Miss Or’Saer, I do indeed. Or’Saer, that’s seventy-five, so boys, box seventy-five if you please!” – The Dunscarth, Eored. Behind him, two young pages spring into action, one climbing the ladder, while the other wheels it into position. The boy upon the ladder withdraws a box numbered 75 from the wall, and pulls forth three sealed letters.

These two pages are seemingly still learning the ins and outs of the mail-house, as the one driving the ladder forward does so a little roughly, jostling the climber as it moves. He descends, hands the letters to Marwolaeth, gives his compatriot a dirty look and then the two return to their other duties.

Of the three letters, one is a bill for the rent of the Or’Saer Emporium, and she gives the disappointed groan of one who is about to hand over yet another substantial sum of money. The second is a response to her job notice, and while she sighs a little at only receiving one application, a brief look-over appears promising.

The third, to her great surprise, is addressed to the Or’Saer Emporium, but not to her.

No indeed, this envelope reads the following.

To Kari Folgesvard and Aranessa Cild-Rohesia, if they should yet live

And that is where we left it…

The Wrap-Up:
A little shorter this time, thankfully, and I was able to finish this one in good time. Clearly only having hour sessions is the way to go. :P

Definitely very Brynnhildr-heavy this one, but I think that might be a good thing, as the first prologue was quite Shadow-centric at first, and then focussed a fair bit on Marwolaeth after that, so all in all, this kind of balanced it out a little bit.

We also got to see some of the dynamic developing between Marwolaeth and Brynn, which I personally liked a lot.

All in all, another positive experience, with not a hell of a lot to say about it, in part at least due to the length, or rather lack of.

Oh, I nearly forgot. Kari Folgesvard and Aranessa Cild-Rohesia will be quite familiar to only a bare handful of our readers. They are characters from another long-running campaign of ours, which I fully intend to write up in some form at some stage in the future. Their connection with Marwolaeth Plendyn Or’Saer should be quite exciting to explore, but that’s for another time.

With that, thank you for reading and we’ll see you next time.

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